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Distracted driving main cause of injury on Sask. roads, tougher penalties considered

SGI says they are encouraged by trends in vehicular injuries and deaths, but the Crown insurer says rates of distracted driving are still too high. David Baxter has the details on how they plan to address it.

Saskatchewan roadways continue to see a declining number of injuries and fatalities, but both those figures remain above the national average, according to preliminary data in SGI’s annual death and injury report.

“The statistics we’re going to talk about this morning are much more than numbers on a spread sheet. We’re talking about actual human beings,” Minister responsible for SGI Joe Hargrave said.

In 2018, the preliminary data shows there were 4,220 injuries on Saskatchewan’s roads and 129 deaths. The insurer says this represents a 34 per cent drop in injuries and nine per cent drop in fatalities compared to the average between 2008 and 2017 – 6,353 injuries and 142 deaths per year.

READ MORE: SGI not celebrating 3 traffic safety spotlight records

“We are on a downward trend faster than the national average is moving,” SGI senior vice president of traffic safety Kwei Quaye said.

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“We believe in the next few years we will hopefully catch up to at least the national average and we’ll; be well on our way to our goal of being safest in the country.”

Traffic injuries and fatalities over the past ten years in Saskatchewan.
Traffic injuries and fatalities over the past ten years in Saskatchewan. Supplied/SGI

The national average is five traffic fatalities per 100,000 and Saskatchewan’s is 8.6 fatalities per 100,000 people. Both those figures come from 2017, according to Quaye.

In 2008, the national average was around seven fatalities per 100,000 people and Saskatchewan’s was 15 per 100,000, Quaye added.

Saskatchewan’s traffic fatalities and injuries have been an on a downward trend since 2012, when they reached a 10 year high of 7,516.

SGI is also seeing injuries and fatalities decline from the “Big Four” –  impaired driving, distracted driving, speeding and not wearing a seatbelt.

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Fatality and injury statistics for SGI’s “Big Four” traffic issues.
Fatality and injury statistics for SGI’s “Big Four” traffic issues. Supplied/SGI

The Crown corporation associates this drop with stricter rules and tougher penalties for impaired driving, public awareness campaigns and media coverage.

Hargrave said distracted driving continues to be a big issue, as police across the province routinely issue around 1,000 distracted driving tickets on a monthly basis.

The minister added the province is considering increasing penalties for the offence.

“Our current fine is $280; maybe that’s not enough. Maybe, it has to be substantially more. Maybe you have to lose your car for a while, maybe you have to lose your license for a while. I don’t know, we’re still working on those numbers,” Hargrave said.

READ MORE: New SGI campaign highlights perils of distracted driving

For a comparison, a first distracted driving offence in Mantioba results in a three day license suspension, $50 fee to get your license back and a $672 ticket.

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Hargrave added that talk of expanding distracted driving penalties will likely be come up during the fall sitting of the Legislative Assembly.

These injury and fatality numbers are considered preliminary as the coroner’s office is still working on a few cases. Quaye said any changes to the numbers would be minimal at this point.

Editors Note: AN earlier version of this story incorrectly said “Impaired driving main cause of injury…” in the headline instead of distracted driving.

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