Vulnerable Road User Safety: A Global Concern
Road Safety and Motor Vehicle
Road Safety Fact Sheet
- Vulnerable Road Users – The Canadian Perspective
- Canada's National Road Safety Plan
- Canadian Initiatives to Improve Vulnerable Road User Safety
- Tips to Make Road Use Safer for Pedestrians, Motorcyclists and Cyclists
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Vulnerable Road Users – The Canadian Perspective
World Health Day 2004 is an unprecedented event for road safety advocates around the world. For the first time since its inception in 1946, the World Health Organization (WHO) is using its annual health message to target road safety. The slogan – Road safety is no accident – was chosen to focus the world's attention on this growing transportation and public health problem and to highlight the fact that traffic fatalities and injuries can be avoided if governments and other key stakeholders implement the measures necessary to prevent them. On April 7, 2004, road safety stakeholders are being asked to promote awareness, understanding and discussion of road safety issues and to initiate or implement actions to address these concerns.
The main reason for this growing global problem is the projected increase in traffic fatalities and injuries among “vulnerable” road users in developing countries, where an estimated 90% of all traffic-related casualties currently occur. “Vulnerable” road users are pedestrians and riders of bicycles, motorcycles and mopeds.
In Canada, the outlook is considerably more positive. Fatalities and serious injuries resulting from traffic collisions are at or near historical lows, despite steady increases in the numbers of vehicles and drivers on our roads. Still, in 2001, 2,778 road users were killed in Canada in traffic collisions. More than 220,000 were injured, including almost 17,000 who sustained serious injuries. Annual estimates of costs associated with these crashes and casualties are as high as $25 billion.
Issues such as poor roads and high population densities are often cited as factors that contribute to the casualty rate among vulnerable road users in developed and underdeveloped countries alike. These factors are not really a problem in Canada. As an extremely large and highly developed country, Canada has one of the highest per capita vehicle ownership rates in the world. Not surprisingly, almost 80% of all road user casualties are motor vehicle occupants.
Vulnerable road users make up the remaining 20% of road users killed and seriously injured each year in traffic crashes. In 2001, 556 vulnerable road users were killed and 3,603 were seriously injured. Pedestrians comprised the largest group of victims among vulnerable road user casualties, accounting for 61% of fatally injured victims and 52% of those with serious injuries. Motorcycle or moped riders accounted for 28% of fatalities and 33% of seriously injured victims, and cyclists comprised the remaining 11% of fatally injured and 15% of seriously injured crash victims.
Major risk factors for pedestrians2 include:
Alcohol Use – approximately 25% of all fatally injured pedestrians had been drinking prior to being struck and killed by motor vehicles3. Among fatally injured pedestrians who had been drinking, 74% had blood alcohol concentration levels that were twice the legal limit to drive a vehicle.
Time of Day – 20% of pedestrians were killed and 17% were seriously injured between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Location – almost 40% were killed and more than 50% were seriously injured at intersections. By the same token, approximately 60% were killed and 45% were seriously injured at non-intersection locations.
Conspicuity – more than 55% were killed and almost 40% were seriously injured at night or in artificial lighting conditions.
Urban Areas – almost 70% of pedestrians were killed and more than 90% were seriously injured in urban areas with posted speed limits of 70 km/h or less. Slightly more pedestrians were killed at non-intersection locations (53%) than at intersections (47%) in urban areas. The pattern for seriously injured pedestrians was reversed (43% at non-intersection locations and 57% at intersections).
Traffic Controls – almost 20% of pedestrians were killed and almost 40% were seriously injured at road locations with traffic signals or road signs. In urban areas, more than one in four pedestrians were killed and almost 45% were seriously injured at signalized road locations.
Rural Roads and Highways – slightly more than 30% of pedestrian fatalities occurred on roads with posted speed limits of 80 km/h or higher. Of these, 85% were killed at non-intersection locations while crossing the road or walking along the roadside.
Age – younger pedestrians (14 years or younger) were most often at fault prior to being struck by motorists and killed or seriously injured. Overall, 50% of all pedestrians killed or seriously injured were deemed to have been at fault. Being at fault includes such pedestrian actions as crossing the intersection without the right-of-way, crossing between intersections, coming from behind a parked vehicle and running into a roadway. Age is also highly correlated to the locations where pedestrians are killed or seriously injured. The youngest victims (9 years or younger) were most often struck at non-intersection locations (e.g. darting out into traffic between parked vehicles), while the oldest (70 years of age or older) were most often struck at intersections (e.g. crossing against a red light). Pedestrians aged 70 years or older were over three times more likely than the national average to be killed and almost twice as likely to be seriously injured.
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