Road Safety in Canada During the United Nations’ Decade of Action

Author(s): Jonah

Slidedeck Presentation:

2B Jonah



This presentation examines Canada’s progress in improving the level of road safety during the United Nations' Decade of Action on Road Safety which began in 2011 and ended in 2020.


The aim of the study was to determine whether the level of road safety in Canada has improved during the UN Decade of Road Safety.


Data from the Transport Canada’s National Collision Database were used to determine the total number and rates of fatalities and serious injuries from 2008 to 2018. The following road safety topics were examined for this period to see whether there have been safety improvements: alcohol and drug impaired driving, distracted driving, speeding, young drivers, vulnerable road users, and heavy commercial vehicles. The currently available data from the National Collision Database, coroners and observational surveys were used to examine these indicators. However, if more recent data become available before the conference, the presentation will be based on them.


Fatality and serious injury rates per billion vehicle kilometres traveled declined by 34% and 38% respectively from 2008 to 2018. Canada’s 2017 fatality rate was 10th among the 20 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development members for which data were available. The social cost of motor vehicle collisions in Canada was estimated at $41 billion for 2017.

In 2017, coroners determined that 25% of drivers killed in fatal collisions had been drinking which was 26% lower than that in 2008 (34%). In a 2018 British Columbia roadside survey, 4.9% of drivers had been drinking, a decrease from 2012, when 6.5% of drivers had been drinking. Ontario roadside surveys show that 4.0% of drivers had been drinking in 2014, this increased slightly to 4.4% in 2017.

In 2016, coroners detected at least one psychodynamic drug (a legal or illegal drug that affects the mind, emotions and behaviour) other than alcohol in 52% of fatally injured drivers compared to 39% in 2008. Cannabis use increased from 17% in 2008 to 23% in 2016.

In 2017, 22% of fatalities involved distraction, compared to 20% in 2008. Based on observational surveys, drivers talking on mobile devices increased from 2.3% in 2012-2013 to 2.9% in 2016-2017. Texting increased from 1.6% to 2.2%.

Fatality rates of young drivers under 20 decreased 40% from 2008 to 2017. Pedestrian fatalities decreased by 2%, motorcyclist fatalities dropped by 12%, and cyclist fatalities decreased by 9%. Fatalities involving heavy commercial vehicles dropped by 19%.


The study used data that were available at the time so it is not yet clear what the level of road safety was achieved by 2020 when the Decade of Action ended.


Between 2008 and 2017, road safety has improved in terms of overall rates of fatalities and serious injuries. In 2017, the leading contributing factors for fatalities were speeding (22%) and distracted driving (22%). While drinking and driving has decreased, the use of drugs has increased, particularly for cannabis.