Fatal and serious injury collisions in Fort Saskatchewan are down 46 per cent from 10 years ago, a drop the city says is not good enough.
In January, Fort Saskatchewan joined a growing number of administrations around the world using the Vision Zero approach to improving traffic safety. Vision Zero, developed in Sweden in 1997, aims to completely eliminate fatal and major injury collisions from roadways.
“What is an acceptable number?” Brad Ward, the city’s protective services director, asked in reference to traffic deaths. “Zero is an acceptable number. That's the mission statement behind Vision Zero."
There were two fatal collisions on Fort Saskatchewan roadways last year and eight collisions causing injuries serious enough to send drivers or passengers to hospital.
“We went for years without having fatalities here. And last year we had two,” Ward said. “So there's a lot of work ahead of us.”
There have been no traffic fatalities so far in 2018, but injury-causing collisions appear to be on the rise. Four major injury collisions have occurred as of May 24, three more than the same time last year, with the city projecting a total of 10 by year end.
Last year there were nine collisions in the city involving “vulnerable” road users -- pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists or anyone not enclosed within a vehicle. There have been two so far this year, a rate on pace with 2017. The risk to vulnerable road users increases in the summer months and with the return to school in the fall, Ward said.
“So we need to do a lot of work in the months that are coming up,” he added.
As part of its effort to reduce risk to road users, the city has also adopted the Safe Systems approach to designing roadways and keeping traffic flowing safely. Safe Systems starts with the idea that drivers will always make mistakes but that roads and traffic rules can be designed in ways to reduce the consequences of those mistakes.
Ward said the new approaches are helping the city come up with better ways to manage risk on local roads, all rooted in the five E's of traffic safety – engineering, education, enforcement, engagement and evaluation.
Ward shared some details about Vision Zero at a recent town hall evening at the Dow Centennial Centre, telling a small audience more about each of the five E's.
One of the messages that needed to get out, he said, was that small increases in speed can make a huge impact during a collision.
“A lof of people when they're driving, they say, well I'm comfortable going 10 km over the limit or 12 km or whatever it is, unknowingly. They don't know what the impact would be. So if there is a pedestrian in the playground or school zone, you choose to go 40 to 45 km per hour, you've increased the mortality likelihood significantly.”
Ward said that enforcement efforts that encourage slower speeds are making a difference.
"We know that our automated traffic enforcement devices -- those are the intersection cameras and the photo laser -- where those are deployed we achieve over a 20 per cent reduction in fatal and serious injury collisions."
The city is also employing an analyst to look at traffic data and pinpoint some underlying causes of collisions.
Ward said it’s important to remember the people behind the statistics.
"Most often we think about collision numbers, that's what they are. They're a number, but the reality is that it's people. It's the impact on the family. It's the impact on friends,” he said.