While other countries are making their roads safer, here at home the number of collisions, fatalities and injuries per capita has been rising over the past 10 years. And such stats worry Dr. Richard Tay, AMA Chair in Road Safety, University of Calgary.
WW: What is the key component of road safety?
RT: Political support and leadership. You need buy-in at the top levels of government in order to implement anything, whether it’s public education, road engineering or enforcement. For example, Australia has a parliamentary road safety committee in each state and politicians oversee road safety. In France, President Chirac has made road safety an election issue. Of course, a scientific approach using theoretical models and evidence-based methods is also crucial.
WW: How is Canada’s road safety performance?
RT: Canada has seen no significant improvements in road safety. In fact, the number of collision-related fatalities has gone up, not down. What’s even more shocking is that the number of collision-related fatalities in Alberta has increased in the past 10 years.
WW: How effective is post-licensing?
RT: The research shows that periodical training after acquiring a driver’s license is not successful. Such programs focus on vehicle handling capabilities, emergency braking, skid control, etc. Drivers need these skills, but they don’t face these situations often. The majority of collisions are caused by speeding, alcohol and fatigue. We need to re-think our driver-training programs to focus more on risk management and behaviour change.
WW: On the topic of aging drivers, how do we balance public safety with the right to mobility?
RT: There’s little evidence that shows aging drivers pose a safety concern. Yes, their driving abilities and skills do deteriorate. But when you examine the behaviour of aging drivers – attitudes toward drinking and driving, speeding and distracted driving and the like – you see that they manage risk well because of their experience and maturity. Driving is not all about skills; attitude counts, too.