The Ontario Road Safety Annual Report offers a comprehensive perspective of road safety in the province. On the basis of comparative data for the number of fatalities per 10,000 licensed drivers in 2001, Ontario's roads are the safest in both Canada and all of North America. This is a significant improvement since 1995, when Ontario ranked second in Canada and sixth in North America.
The success achieved in 2001 is due, in large measure, to consistent and determined efforts by the government and a multitude of partners to continuously improve driver behaviour, vehicle condition and infrastructure safety.
The government has worked in close partnership with the police community, local community groups, industry, municipalities, safety organizations and the private sector to achieve its goal of a modern, safe and efficient transportation system for Ontario.
Keeping Ontario's roads safe continued to be one of the provincial government's top priorities in 2001. Ontario's growing population and economy generated record numbers of drivers and vehicles on the province's roads. There were almost 8.3 million licensed drivers and 7.3 million registered motor vehicles in the province in 2001.
In 2001, the positive downward trend of road fatalities continued — there were 845 road fatalities in Ontario — the lowest number since 1950. The decrease in road fatalities occurred at the same time as the number of licensed drivers grew from 8,121,374 in 2000 to 8,266,616 in 2001, an increase of 145,242 drivers.
The number of fatalities per 10,000 licensed drivers is a commonly used measure of road user safety in North America and other jurisdictions, thereby allowing comparisons of our performance. It is more reliable and has less variation across jurisdictions than other available measures. Other measures, such as total number of collisions, are more subject to local conditions and procedures, such as the collision-reporting threshold. Similarly, using the number of licensed drivers rather than the number of registered vehicles gives us a better comparison because vehicle registration procedures differ greatly across jurisdictions.
The Ministry of Transportation (MTO), in conjunction with its road safety partners, including the Ministries of the Attorney General and Public Safety and Security, promotes a multifaceted approach to improve safety. Combined efforts target four key areas:
MTO engages in a broad range of safety education initiatives aimed at all Ontarians, from young children traveling in motor vehicles to pedestrians and senior drivers. These initiatives take place in all areas of the province.
Since 1995, the Ontario government has introduced some of the toughest measures against drinking and driving in North America. But, despite the consequences, some people still get behind the wheel when impaired. The government and its road safety partners contend that even one impaired driver on Ontario's roads is one too many.
In 2001, the province introduced a new initiative to keep impaired drivers off our roads. As of December 23, 2001, individuals who are convicted of a drinking and driving offence under the Criminal Code of Canada are subject to the ignition interlock program. An ignition interlock is an in-car breath screening device that prevents a vehicle from starting if it detects a blood alcohol concentration over a pre-set threshold. The driver must blow into the device, which is connected to the engine's ignition system.
After serving the current provincial and Criminal Code of Canada sanctions, including licence suspension and mandatory remedial programs, those who are eligible to have their driver's licence reinstated will have an ignition interlock condition placed on their Ontario driver's licence for at least one year. The device must be installed in any vehicle the offender drives while the condition is on the licence. The alternative is for the driver to refrain from driving altogether until the condition is removed from their licence.
This is just one of the many tough measures that the Ontario government has put in place to deter people from driving while impaired by alcohol. Other initiatives include:
Based on Transport Canada's 2001 national urban seat belt survey, Ontario's seat belt compliance rate is currently about 92 per cent, the highest in Canada. Still, the Ontario Road Safety Annual Report shows that about one-third of fatally injured drivers were not buckled up. Unfortunately, more than one million people, or eight per cent of light-duty vehicle occupants in Ontario, do not regularly wear seat belts. Moreover, recent child seat clinics held across Ontario show that four out of five child seats are installed or used incorrectly.
The government will continue to work closely with its road safety partners to raise seat belt compliance in the province to 100 per cent. Our initiatives incorporate public education programs and targeted campaigns with community groups, injury prevention advocates, public health professionals and police.
Our goal is to save lives by further increasing seat belt use. To help achieve this goal, the Annual Seat Belt Campaign was held across the province from September 29 to October 13, 2001. It coincided with Operation Impact, a national 24-hour police blitz targeting high-risk drivers and passengers who are not buckled up.
Another seat belt initiative was held from April 14 to 29, 2001. The Spring Seat Belt campaign focused on encouraging everyone to buckle up and emphasized keeping children safe through the proper use of child safety seats.
"Love Me — Buckle Me right" day was one of the key events of the Spring Seat Belt Safety Campaign. Ontario held its first "Love Me — Buckle Me right" day on April 21, 2001, to educate parents and caregivers about the proper use of child safety seats. In total, 92 child car seat inspection clinics were held across the province. Organizers reported that 82 per cent of child car seats were incorrectly installed.
The Co-Operators General Insurance Company, Evenflo and DaimlerChrysler Canada were corporate sponsors for the Seat Belt Campaign.
MTO sponsored and organized the 6th annual Road Safety Challenge in May 2001 to link communities and encourage partnerships among communities, business and government to build a safer, healthier Ontario. The week-long campaign challenged communities to reduce collision-related deaths and injuries through special road safety activities.
In 2001, the Road Safety Challenge took place in a record 35 communities across Ontario. Educational clinics addressed aggressive and unsafe driving practices. Participants were invited to compete for awards in various categories to promote road safety.
Ontario has the distinction of having some of the toughest truck safety laws in North America. The following are some of the measures the province has taken to promote commercial vehicle safety:
In 2001/02, MTO conducted 59,237 truck safety inspections, checked approximately 122,000 drivers and weighed 305,442 commercial vehicle units.
RoadCheck is an annual, 72-hour safety blitz of commercial motor vehicles conducted in Canada, the United States and Mexico. The 2001 campaign was held on June 5, 6 and 7. During the blitz, unsafe trucks and trailers were removed from highways. The results are used to measure the effectiveness of ministry enforcement initiatives and the trucking industry's compliance with safety laws.
Since 1995, Ontario's RoadCheck results show that the average number of trucks taken off the road for defects during vehicle inspections has decreased by 56 per cent. The most common defects have been problems with brakes, suspension and tires.
Ontario enforcement officers inspected 3,050 trucks during the three-day 2001 campaign and found fewer safety defects per vehicle than in 2000. Of the vehicles examined, 88 per cent passed inspection or displayed a recently affixed safety inspection decal. Ontario's results were two per cent better in 2001 than the national average of 86 per cent compliance.
Of the trucks subject to full mechanical inspections, during RoadCheck 2001, 22 per cent were placed out-of-service. This marks a notable improvement over the 43 per cent out-of-service rate Ontario experienced in 1995.
Ontario promotes school bus safety throughout the year, with increased focus during the annual School Bus Safety Week, held October 15 to 18, 2001. During the week, MTO strengthened partnerships with police services, school bus operators, school boards, educators, parents, students and public health services. In 2001, MTO launched a new campaign to encourage and facilitate school bus safety education for children called "Think of Us on the Bus." As part of the campaign, children's artwork promoting safe driving and passenger behaviour near school buses was displayed in schools.
The penalties for school bus violations are among the highest in Ontario's Highway Traffic Act.
The Ontario government recognizes the importance of supporting community initiatives. Local priorities can be best identified and addressed at a grass-roots level. In 2001, as part of the Action Plan for Safer Roads, MTO implemented a comprehensive public education plan that included market research, public education, media advertising and community programs. As well, MTO's Community Partnership Support Program provided matching grants for groups conducting public education activities to address road user safety issues.
In 2001, the province provided $650,000 to local community road user safety groups to counter aggressive and unsafe driving habits and promote safe driving practices. This was the second year that the government provided special funding for the Aggressive Driving Community Support (ADCS) program to help community groups develop projects that educate motorists about safe driving.
As well, groups were encouraged to develop projects targeting specific areas of unsafe driving behaviour identified by the Ontario Advisory Group on Safe Driving, including: impaired driving, aggressive driving, speeding and driver inattention and fatigue. The ADCS program is one element of the Ontario government's overall Action Plan for Safer Roads.
The government continued to expand the COMPASS freeway traffic management system in 2001. This system enables MTO to detect and respond to incidents quickly on major provincial freeways in the Greater Toronto and Ottawa areas.
MTO also increased the number of advanced road weather information system (ARWIS) stations. These stations measure road and weather conditions in a local area and provide forecasting tools to help optimize MTO's winter maintenance activities. Approximately 25 stations were installed in 2001 bringing the total to 65. As well as improving road safety, ARWIS technology provides accurate information that is used to reduce the amount of salt needed on Ontario's roads.
The ministry is finalizing a major update of its geometric design and roadside safety manuals to ensure that designers are using state-of-the-art knowledge and best practices to enhance infra-structure safety.
In 2001, MTO took further steps to plan for future transportation needs. This planning is in keeping with the government's Smart Growth initiative to build a strong economy, strong communities and a healthy environment. Since 1995, the government's goal has been to build a safe, efficient and modern transportation network to support a healthy economy over the next 20 years and beyond. Between 1995 and 2001, the government invested more than $6.5 billion in Ontario's highways. By the end of the fiscal year 2002-2003, the total investment is expected to climb to more than $7.5 billion.
In 2001, the province moved forward with a series of major transportation initiatives to support the significant population and economic growth expected over the next 15 years. MTO worked with a wide range of partners to promote better co-ordination and integration of local land use and transportation planning decisions.
The planning initiatives considered include:
The driving environment plays a critical role in improving highway safety across the province. As a result, safety of the existing highway system has been a key focus of the ministry. Significant investments have been made over the last several years to enhance safety and operations of the roadway system, in addition to preserving and maintaining the infrastructure. As part of the commitment to creating a safe and efficient driver environment, a number of highway improvement projects have been undertaken.
The Ontario government has invested over $3.5 billion on transportation in the GTA since 1995. These investments helped improve safety, relieve traffic congestion and ensure the economic prosperity of the province.
The following are some of the examples of the highway work undertaken:
The following are examples of highway work undertaken in Eastern Ontario:
The following are some examples of highway work undertaken in Northern Ontario:
Since 1995, the Ontario government has continued to invest significant amounts to improve transportation infrastructure in the Niagara area, including;
On September 27, 2001, the Ontario government announced a 10-year, $9-billion investment plan for transit, $3.25 billion of which will be funded by the province.
Three programs are being implemented to deliver this provincial commitment. The Golden Horseshoe Transit Investment Partnerships (GTIP) initiative will provide up to $1.25 billion for the expansion of inter-regional transit services inside the Golden Horseshoe. Outside the Golden Horseshoe, the Transit Investment Partnerships (TIP) initiative will provide $250 million for transit expansion. In addition, the province has assumed the base capital and operating needs for GO Transit involving a $1-billion commitment.
In its first year, the government allocated $100 million for transit fleet renewal under the Ontario Transit Renewal Program.
These initiatives demonstrate the province's commitment to Smart Growth by building a strong economy, strong communities and a healthy environment. This, in turn, contributes positively to safety performance on roads in Ontario.
The governments of Canada, the United States, Ontario and Michigan initiated a study aimed at improving traffic flow at the Windsor-Detroit border — one of the busiest international crossings in the world. The study will help the four governments assess the existing transportation network and long-range transportation plans in southeast Michigan and southwest Ontario. The project will help to ensure the efficient movement of people and goods through this vital trade corridor. All four governments are jointly funding the study.
The need for enhanced and uniform security remains urgent in light of the events of September 11, 2001, and the heavy commercial and passenger cross-border traffic between Ontario and the United States. Ontario is working with our North American partners on enhancing identification and security strategies for driver licences.
The government invested $150,000 to support research at five universities on aggressive driving and other critical road user safety issues. In 2001, MTO targeted research topics that support its priorities and those of the Ontario Advisory Group on Safe Driving. The priority topics included driving while impaired, driving at excessive speeds, driver inattention, driver compliance with road conditions, driver fatigue, poor lane discipline, tailgating and sharing the road with large commercial vehicles.
The Ontario government is determined to maintain and improve the province's excellent road safety record. In 2001, Ontario had the safest roads in all of North America. Throughout the year, the government focused on further developing partnerships with police, other governments, communities and businesses to forge a common goal of keeping all Ontarians safe on the province's roads.
The government will continue to work to ensure that Ontario has the transportation system it needs to support economic development, the growth of strong communities and a clean environment during the next 20 years and beyond.
While we can be proud of our road user safety record and the improvements that have been achieved since 1995, we must continue to build on this record to further reduce fatalities and injuries on Ontario's roads.
These injuries and fatalities continue to exact an unacceptable toll on our families, friends, quality of life and health-care resources.
Direct and indirect costs associated with unintentional injury related to collisions include medical care, hospitalization, police costs, rehabilitation, social costs and lost productivity.
Improvements in road user safety in the province can have a significant positive effect in reducing this burden to society. In order to achieve these improvements, the province will:
If each and every road user in Ontario takes responsibility for his or her behaviour and attitude on our roads, we will be successful in attaining our ultimate goal of achieving the safest roads in the world.