Book Review: No Accident – Eliminating Injury and Death on Canadian Roads
(Note: this article is from the Summer 2014 Issue of the Safety Network Newsletter and was originally posted on August 11, 2014. To see the complete newsletter click this link, then click 2014, Issue 3 Safety Network Newsletters )
Neil Arason, a long time member of CARSP, recently completed a thought provoking book, No Accident: Eliminating Injury and Death on Canadian Roads. The book is a must read for Canadians in the field of road safety and provides a fresh perspective on dealing with the issue of road safety that cuts across multiple fields and disciplines. Neil was a speaker and panelist at our conference and held a book signing event.
Several things particularly stood out to me as I read through this book. The book is unique as it is written from a Canadian perspective and contains references to recent work completed by number of Canadian researchers (and members of CARSP) who have been working in the road safety field. Neil is able to explain the research in plain language, such that the layperson would easily be able to understand the issues and the solutions that are in our grasp. Neil hits home the message by highlighting a number of tragic events that have recently occurred that illustrate the work that still needs to be done. At the end of each chapter, Neil provides a ‘to do list’ of things that can be done to bring about large scale change relating to the issue and things that can be done on an individual basis, emphasizing that all of us have a role to play in making our roads safer.
One particular issue that stood out for myself working in the traffic engineering field was the section of the book on speed. I have always taken it for granted that speed limits in urban areas should be 50 km/h. Neil makes the point that there is a need for a paradigm shift in the traffic engineering community in Canada. Instead of 50 km/h, we should be considering a 30 km/h default speed limit in local roads in urban areas, where pedestrians and cyclists and motorists are interacting. A number of communities in Europe have taken this approach, and it is clear, when considering their rate of traffic fatalities, that they are well ahead of Canada.
Another sobering and personal fact was Neil’s section on teenager drivers which presents sobering statistics on their crash risk. I was surprised to hear that North America is in the minority in terms of when drivers are permitted to obtain a license (at sixteen years of age compared to eighteen). It struck me again how we as a society have taken the age at which teenagers are eligible to drive for granted. As my son is fourteen and eager to get behind the wheel of our family car in two years, I am questioning whether I am honestly ready to hand him over the keys.
It is clear reading this book that there is much still to be done in the field of road safety. Neil challenges all of us to do our part in reaching the goal of eliminating deaths and serious injuries on our roads. For further reading, Maclean’s magazine recently did a feature article on this book which may be found at http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/the-cure-for-killer-cars/. Neil also has a website (http://neil.arason.ca/) that contains recent news articles on road safety and his own opinion pieces.