2017 had fewest traffic deaths since 1954: SGI

Joe Hargrave speaks to supporters during the 2016 election campaign. Herald file photo.

Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) and minister responsible Joe Hargrave are thanking Saskatchewanians for doing their part to reduce the amount of fatalities on the province’s roads.

At a press conference Thursday, Hargrave said preliminary numbers show that 2017 was a year of historic lows in the number of people killed in motor vehicle collisions in Saskatchewan.

A total of 102 people lost their lives on the province’s roads last year. That’s the fewest since 1954, when 74 people were killed. That year, there was less than one-third as many registered vehicles in the province as there is today.

The 102 number is a decrease from the 125 deaths in 2016 and far below the yearly average of 145 in the decade spanning 2007-2016.

Hargrave made the announcement in front of a powerful visual representation at the Delta Hotel.

Rows of chairs — 125 in all — were set up. Of those, 102 were empty. The remaining 23 were full.

While Thursday’s announcement was partly about celebrating how far the province has come, it was also an acknowledgement of all the work that must still be done.

“I want to make something very clear,” Hargrave said.

“I didn’t just come here to talk about the numbers. I came here to talk about the people. Real people, real human lives. Every single statistic was a real person, a real life that was cut short.”

He turned to the chairs in front of him.

“Each one of those 23 people over there represent someone who did not needlessly die in a motor vehicle collision,” Hargrave said.

“That was 23 times a police officer didn’t have to ring the doorbell and deliver the worst news someone could ever hear. Twenty-three funerals that didn’t have to be planned, 23 futures that still get to happen — futures full of hope, potential and possibility. This is worth celebrating.”

The minister said the credit for that progress doesn’t go to SGI or to the government, but to the people themselves.

He said it’s because of people deciding not to drive after drinking or consuming drugs, because of people putting their phones down, driving at a reasonable speed or wearing a seatbelt, that the number of traffic fatalities has gone down.

Hargrave then turned his attention to the empty chairs.

“Almost all motor vehicle issues are preventable, and almost every death on Saskatchewan roads is preventable,” he said.

“Each one of those chairs represents the 102 real people who died in a motor vehicle collision in 2017. Yes, it’s a historically low number, but at the same time, it’s still far, far too high. We cannot forget the traffic fact that there was still 102 people killed, and more than 400 injured.

“Those empty chairs represent how much work we all still have to do.”

Hargrave said his goal is to have the safest roads in Canada.

For more on this story, please see the Feb. 9 print or e-edition of the Daily Herald.