Achieving Vision Zero in Urban and Rural Environments: conference

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Next week, Canadian road safety experts are getting together for their annual national conference with the theme: Safe Mobility: Achieving Vision Zero in Urban and Rural Environments. This year it is held in Ottawa, for the first time since 2015. The conference is organised annually by the Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals, or CARSP. This year CARSP organises the conference together with Parachute Canada.

Traffic safety players

When you are a cycling advocate, you automatically roll into traffic safety issues (and urbanism and sustainability – the list keeps growing) and you start to meet more and more safety advocates involved in a.o. brain injury prevention, walking school buses and professional driving, even drownings (In 2020, 323 people died due to unintentional drownings).

There are many organizations involved in road safety in Canada, each with its own founding story and mandate. Let me paint a bit of the road safety landscape of organisations I know of.

There is the Ottawa Safety Council, which focuses on motor cycle training, a crossing guards program, the walking schoolbus and cycle safety but also on car and booster seat safety.

There is the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF), which, as the name implies, focuses on research. TIRF works with transportation, health and criminal justice professionals to transfer knowledge and implement research findings in the real world.

Green Communities Canada has programs around active school travel planning and school streets.

There is Safer Roads Ottawa as part of the City of Ottawa and EnviroCentre which work with community partners on programs, outreach and safer infrastructure.

There is the aformentioned Parachute Canada, which has a broader safety mandate. Besides traffic safety such as teen driving, elementary road safety, impaired driving and Canada’s Favourite Crossing Guard, it also looks at safe storage of cannabis, fall prevention, poison prevention and hockey concussions. Parachute formed through the amalgamation of the former organizations of Safe Communities Canada, Safe Kids Canada, SMARTRISK and ThinkFirst Canada.

Others, beside the obvious police enforcement initiatives, are advocacy groups such as our own Bike Ottawa and MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving). And of course in the background are the Ministeries of Transport of the provinces and the federal government.

Embracing Vision Zero at the road safety conference

CARSP was formed in 1985 and is a national member-based, non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the use of the Safe System Approach to achieve Vision Zero, that is zero fatalities and serious injuries on Canada’s roads and abroad.

I am pleased that Parachute Canada and Desjardins Insurance are sponsoring me to be part of the conference as I am leading a group of participants on a downtown Wellington Street walking tour to talk more about the plans for Canada’s main street in front of Parliament Hill. In turn, I am writing about the conference over the next two weeks.

Some road fatalities stats

To come prepared at the road safety conference, I looked up several road safety stats. I was surprised to see that during the COVID years, the number of fatalities actually increased after 2020. I would have thought that everyone stayed home and/or worked from home and those who didn’t had less other vehicles or people in their way to crash into. But nothing is further from the truth. In 2022 fatalities increased by almost 13% from 2020. Who would have thought and what is going on here? Here are the trends for the latest 20 years.

Bear in mind that Canada 20 years ago had 31.5 mln people and in 2022 around 39 mln. That is why Transport Canada believes it is better to calculate the number of fatalities per 10,000 registered motor vehicles. If you look at that number, the numbers have somewhat stalled since 2014. I also looked at the number of fatalities per 10,000 residents and, while lower, it shows a similarly flat trend.

2005 was a particularly bad year with nearly 2900 traffic fatalities vs 1711 in 2020 (Covid’s 1st year).

Next week, I am hoping to find out more about the latest road safety research and initiatives as well as why the numbers per capita are going up rather than further down. This must be puzzling and a disappointment after all the effort put in by everyone to bring down the numbers.

What can I expect at the road safety conference?

There is a promising variety of topics such as “”Creating more equitable access to transport systems“, “Safe Systems Integration into Traffic Engineering Methods“, “Designing for Pedestrian Safety and Active Transportation”, “Cycling safety“, “An International Status Update on Implementing Vision Zero and the Safety System Approach“, “Implementing Vision Zero“, “Insights into Cannabis Impaired Drivers” and so much more.

Perhaps the most intriguing one is: “The Comparison Between NHTSA and ACOG Guidelines and AI-Generated Responses on the Safety of Pregnant Mothers While Driving“.

There are key notes and parallel sessions, Matt Pinder is doing a bike tour and I am doing the walk tour with several others. I am happy to report that Cassie Smith from Bike Ottawa is in one of the panels.

I can’t attend them all unfortunately, but I will do my best to report back as much as I can.

26.2 mln vehicles

While we’re on it, the total number of road motor vehicles registered in Canada was 26.3 million in 2022, edging up 0.3% from 2021. That includes everything, from the Honda Jazz to a tractor trailer. About 92% are passenger cars, multi-purpose vehicles (MPVs), pickup trucks and vans, accounting for the majority of vehicles registered, 24.1 mln. vehicles in absolute numbers.


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On the road to safety:

Preventing Injuries, saving lifes:

The knowledge source for safe driving:

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