(CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY)
Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to talk about an issue affecting everyone in Ontario: road safety.
Earlier today, I joined our government's safety partners in launching the annual Fall Seatbelt Campaign.
In 1976, Ontario was the first jurisdiction in North America to make wearing seatbelts mandatory.
At the time, only 15.5 per cent of drivers killed or injured in collisions were wearing a seatbelt. Since seatbelts were made mandatory the number of people killed and injured in collisions has steadily dropped. And the number of people who buckle up has dramatically increased.
Mr. Speaker, I'd like to recognize Suzanne Chaddock who is in the public gallery today. She is here today because a seatbelt saved her life in 1976. Suzanne is living proof that seatbelts save lives.
Suzanne survived a terrible collision because of her seatbelt and now she is helping to improve road safety every day as an OPP constable.
Mr. Speaker, the most recent survey by Transport Canada found that Ontario has one of the second highest rates of seatbelt use in urban areas in Canada — nearly 93 per cent. That's above the national average of just over 91 per cent.
An earlier survey showed Ontario's rural seatbelt use rate at nearly 88 per cent — also above the national average.
But, Mr. Speaker, we can and must do more. For every one per cent increase in seatbelt usage, five lives are saved. Our goal is 100 per cent!
About one third of all drivers and passengers killed in motor vehicle collisions were not wearing seatbelts.
The message of the Fall Seatbelt Campaign is clear — using a seatbelt is the single most effective way to reduce motor vehicle-related injuries and deaths.
Mr. Speaker, the safety of children is a particular concern of mine. I'm pleased to report that, according to the 2004 Ontario Road Safety Annual Report, the number of children killed and injured in road collisions fell by 22 per cent compared to 2003.
Sadly, collisions are still a leading cause of death and injury for children between one and nine years old (Safe Kids Canada). A properly used child car safety seat can cut the chances of death or serious injury by as much as 75 per cent (The Infant and Toddler Safety Association).
That's why the McGuinty government brought forward legislation to make it mandatory for all caregivers — grandparents, babysitters and hosts of children's birthday parties — to ensure children are properly secured in an appropriate child car safety seat or booster seat when travelling. Drivers who don't, face a fine and two demerit points.
Mr. Speaker, we're serious about safety. We know kids are safer in child car safety seats and booster seats. That's why they're now the law. And that's why we're getting the message out with the Fall Seatbelt Campaign, running from September 23 to October 8.
This year's campaign includes police enforcement blitzes, … seatbelt counts — where groups of volunteers survey and tally seatbelt usage, … clinics highlighting the proper use of child car safety seats and booster seats, … and a public education campaign to keep "buckling up" top of mind for everyone.
Mr. Speaker, Ontario has a lot to be proud of as we mark the 30th anniversary of mandatory seatbelt use. The most recent Ontario Road Safety Annual Report also shows that, for the second year in a row, Ontario has the safest roads in North America.
But road safety doesn't just happen.
I'd like to thank the police who hold seatbelt safety blitzes, … the volunteers who conduct seatbelt surveys, … the community groups that organize child car safety seat clinics, … fire, …emergency medical services, … health care professionals, … the committee which helps plan the Fall and Spring campaigns, … and everyone across Ontario who helps spread this important message: Seatbelts save lives.
Together we are making our roads safer for children — and everyone who travels in Ontario.
Mr. Speaker, I know all members will want to support the 2006 Fall Seatbelt campaign and join me in encouraging everyone in Ontario to buckle up.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.