Hundreds injured on gravel roads annually: Manitoba Public Insurance and RCMP partner to promote road safety

On average, nearly 500 people are injured in crashes on gravel roads in Manitoba annually, according to Manitoba Public Insurance. Sadly, about 14 people are killed yearly in crashes which occur on Manitoba gravel roads.

In efforts to reduce those numbers and heighten road safety awareness, Manitoba Public Insurance and the RCMP have partnered in a joint public awareness and enforcement campaign specific to gravel roads, which began in April and is continuing into the fall.

As of the end of July, 460 Highway Traffic Act offences notices have been issued by the RCMP, highlighted by 190 speeding, 21 non-seatbelt, and 16 short-term roadside suspensions. In addition, 10 impaired driving charges have also been laid under the Criminal Code of Canada.

“Police presence on our roadways sends a strong road safety message to those drivers who may be inclined to exhibit high-risk driving behaviour,” said Cliff Cullen, Minister of Crown Services. “Through road safety partnerships such as this, the ultimate goal is to reduce fatal crashes and injuries, not only on major roadways but on secondary, less travelled gravel roads as well.”

In efforts to heighten awareness about the challenges associated with driving on gravel roads among new drivers, Manitoba Public Insurance has also announced plans to enhance its high school driver education program starting in September.

“Driving on gravel roads can present unique challenges for all drivers, but particularly for new drivers who may not be accustomed to how even small steering wheel movements can result in loss of control,” said Ward Keith, vice-president, Business Development and Communications and Chief Administrative Officer, Manitoba Public Insurance.

“Enhancements to the high school driver education program will expose all new teen drivers to both in-class instruction and practical on-road training on how to properly control their vehicle on gravel, and the importance of driving to road and weather conditions.”

On average, 38 per cent of gravel road fatal crashes in Manitoba are alcohol related, while speed is attributed to nearly 20 per cent of gravel road fatal crashes. There are about 3,200 crashes reported annually on gravel roads based on Manitoba Public Insurance data.

Another very important reminder is to ensure that all vehicle occupants are properly restrained with seat belts or child occupant restraints. While use of occupant restraints is mandatory at all times, failure to wear seatbelts on gravel roads can literally make the difference between life and death in a serious vehicle collision, particularly if the collision involves loss of control and vehicle rollover.

“The margin for error is razor thin when drivers make mistakes on a gravel surface,” said Insp. Ed Moreland, Officer in Charge, RCMP Traffic Services Unit. “Much like ice, failure to adjust to conditions can have dire consequences.”

Safety tips for gravel road driving:

  • Always wear your seatbelt and make sure your passengers are also properly restrained. People not using their seatbelts are 26 times more likely to be killed and two times more likely to be seriously injured in a collision than people using their seatbelts.
  • Slow down when you’re moving from a paved road to gravel. Make sure you have control and know how your vehicle handles on the new surface.
  • Avoid any sudden changes in direction. Swerving can be particularly dangerous and may cause you to lose control.
  • If you do lose control, take your foot off the gas and look and steer in the direction you want to go. Do not make any sudden changes in direction or speed.
  • Avoid losing control by driving in the tracks of other vehicles.
  • Keep a good distance between you and the vehicle ahead to prevent dust from obscuring your vision.
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