SGI Reports Drop In Traffic Fatalities And Injuries In 2018
Every life is precious and every life lost in a traffic accident is more than a statistic and a number says the Minister Responsible for SGI Joe Hargrave.
Hargrave was addressing reporters at a news conference releasing preliminary 2018 figures into the number of deaths and injuries in automobile accidents in 2018.
The figures released show in 2018 there were 129 people killed and 4220 injured on Saskatchewan roadways which is a nine percent drop in fatalities and a 34 percent drop in injuries based upon a 10 year average of 142 deaths and 6,253 injured from 2008 – 2017.
The Humboldt Broncos bus tragedy which saw 16 people killed and 13 injured was one of the issues which weighed heavily on those numbers and Friday’s press conference.
Despite the drop more work needs to be done to bring the numbers down, Hargrave stated.
“Behaviour change takes time,” he said while pointing to the reduction in deaths and fatalities through better public awareness, tougher penalties and more traffic officers out patrolling.
The Province increased the number of traffic officers in 2018 to 120.
“The roads are safer today then they were a few decades ago…most of the deaths and injuries are preventable.”
Hargrave said there was a “Big Four” of causes – impaired driving, distracted driving, speeding and improper seat belt use – SGI was targeting in order to drop the numbers even further.
In 2017 Saskatchewan, per every 100,000 residents, was still high but dropping said SGI Vice President of Traffic Safety Kwei Quaye.
“We are on a downward trend faster than where the national average is moving,” Quaye stated.
Regarding the Humboldt Broncos bus tragedy Hargrave said “any death is tragic. When you lose 16 lives that is a pretty serious number…every accident and every life (lost) is tragic.”
The accident has had an effect on teams using buses he stated with many teams “when they are going on road trips they check to see if it is a bus that has seat belts on it.”
Under law if a bus has seatbelts they must be worn but he conceded it was difficult for officers to stop buses to check if passengers were wearing them.
Distracted driving remains a problem, with 1,000 tickets issued monthly, something Hargrave termed as “unacceptable.”
The Province is in the process of increasing the penalties and changing the penalties.
“If you do get caught the first time you learn a valuable lesson and if you get caught a second time you really are going to pay.”
When it comes to seatbelt use, mandatory for 40 years, Hargrave said he could not believe 600 tickets were being issued on a monthly basis.
“We are going to continue to lay out those tickets. You find it hard to believe but we might have to increase the penalty for not wearing your seatbelt.”
Quaye stated the increased numbers of tickets was a good and it was because of the 120 officers NIW dedicated to traffic patrol.
“We know one of the biggest reasons for obeying the traffic rules is the probability of getting caught.”
Regarding impaired driving Hargrave said the number of check stops had dramatically increased with SGI continuing to fund them by paying police officers over time to operate them if necessary.
“They are out there and they are going to continue to lay charges “ Hargrave said.
In 2017 Saskatchewan had the highest national impaired driving violations rate at 539 per 100,000 people when 6,153 charges were laid.
Despite the high impaired driving rates Hargrave sees a silver lining in an attitude change with “the vast majority of people getting it and they are taking steps not to drink and drive. And we are very pleased to see the 10 year average still trending in the right direction.”
He further stated like many who decide not to wear seatbelts after 40 years of legislation there are those people who never will get the message.