Preliminary data shows the total number of people killed or injured on Saskatchewan roads declined in 2018, but the province says more work needs to be done.
Minister responsible for SGI Joe Hargrave, who is also the MLA for Prince Albert Carlton, held a press conference Friday to announce the initial results for 2018. The data shows that the number of people hurt or killed in traffic collisions on the province’s roads continued to trend downwards. Last year there were 4,220 injuries and 129 deaths on Saskatchewan’s roads. That’s down from the 10-year average of 6,353 injuries and 142 deaths. It’s also down from 2017’s total mark of 4,716 injuries and deaths. However, it is an increase in fatal collisions from 2017. That year, there was only 100 on Saskatchewan’s roads. The increase to 129 this year is attributed partly to multiple casualty collisions, such as the Humboldt Broncos bus crash and a head-on collision near Elrose that killed six people.
Saskatchewan also saw a reduction in injuries and deaths across each of the big four categories which contribute to the greatest number of collisions.
There were 397 injuries and deaths attributed to impaired driving in 2018, along with 790 attributed to distracted driving, 564 to speed and 206 to improper seatbelt or car seat use.
The ten-year averages for those same four factors are 715, 1,890, 934 and 292 respectively.
Deaths attributed to improper seatbelt use rose. Improper seatbelt use was a factor in 42 incidents in 2018, tying it with impaired driving as the number one factor in deaths on Saskatchewan roads. The 10-year average for seatbelts as a factor is 35 deaths per year.
Hargrave said the province is focusing a lot of its attention on the big four factors because the vast majority of deaths in traffic collisions involves at least one of them. He credited tougher laws, awareness effort, stronger enforcement and mandatory booster seats as some factors that have helped reduce the number of people hurt or killed on the roads.
“Behaviour change takes time,” he said.
“Thanks to technology, legislation and driver behaviour, our roads are much safer today than they were a few decades ago. We must remember that one life lost is too many. We are making progress …. Still, auto collisions kill and injure far too many people in Saskatchewan every year. Most of those injuries and deaths are preventable.”
Hargrave said the downward trend in total injuries and in injuries and deaths across the big four are “encouraging.” Still, he acknowledged, the province still has a long way to go to reach its goal of having the safest roads in the country.
“The statistics we talk about this morning are much more than number on a spreadsheet,” Hargrave said.
‘We’re talking about actual human beings who have been hurt, often very seriously, or who have been killed in collisions. When I’m driving, one thing that always gives me pause is when I see a roadside memorial. Every single one … is a heartbreaking reminder that someone lost their lives tragically and prematurely as a result of a collision on our roads.”
Saskatchewan sits at an unenviable place in the nation’s road safety rankings. According to 2017 data, the most recent year complete, comparable information is available, Saskatchewan has the second-highest rate of deaths on the road per 100,000 people and the third-lowest rate of road injury per 100,000 people.
One area of focus for the province is distracted driving. That category saw the greatest number of incidents where someone was injured in 2018. Hargrave told reporters Friday that officers are writing 1,000 distracted driving tickets province-wide per month.
“We’re looking at increasing the penalties … until people get the message,” he said.
That could include impounding vehicles or suspending licenses.
“Maybe a $280 fine isn’t enough,” he said.
“I want to see the injuries and the deaths drop. I’d love to come back here and say there weren’t any.”