Loosened public health restrictions tied to surge in collision fatalities, serious injuries: MPI

Manitoba Public Insurance is urging road users to avoid high-risk driving behaviours in the coming weeks as statistics have shown a link between the lifting of COVID-19 public health orders and an increase in collisions on Manitoba roads that result in fatalities and serious injuries.

Last summer, the number of fatalities and serious injuries in motor vehicle collisions spiked during the months public health orders were loosened between the first and second waves, as evident by the following MPI data:

  • 29 people were killed on public roadways in August and September 2020 – a 79 per cent increase compared to the previous five-year (2015-2019) average of 16 fatalities during these two months.
  • The number of people killed in collisions where distracted driving was a factor (20) quadrupled in August and September of 2020, compared to the 2015-2019 average of five over the same time frame.
  • The number of people killed when not wearing a seatbelt (eight) more than doubled in August and September of 2020, compared to the 2015-2019 average of three during the same time frame.

“MPI has shared this data with police agencies throughout our province and they indicated they are prepared to address this potential increase in high-risk driving behavior in a proactive manner. But all road users have a role to play in ensuring our highways and streets are safe,” said Satvir Jatana, MPI’s Chief Customer Officer.

“While we are all looking forward to getting back to regular summer activities with friends and family, we can’t forget about road safety. The increases in deaths and serious injuries we saw last summer can be avoided if we all commit to making better choices behind the wheel.”

In 2020, instances of speeding also significantly increased, according to MPI data.

Last year, over 500 speed related Serious Offence Notices (SONs) were forwarded to MPI from law enforcement, a 60 per cent increase from the previous year. As per The Drivers and Vehicles Act, speed infractions (50 km/h or more over the limit) are one of several offences that must be reported to the Registrar of Motor Vehicles immediately after a driver is charged. After receiving the SON roadside, drivers are given five business days to contact MPI to schedule a Show Cause Hearing.

About 90 per cent of the drivers attending these hearings have their driver’s license suspended; length of suspension determined by the person’s previous driving history and circumstances of the SON.

In efforts to make roads safer and raise drivers’ awareness about speeding, MPI regularly provides funding to law enforcement agencies to conduct enhanced enforcement campaigns. Most recently, MPI provided funding to eight rural police agencies to conduct dedicated speed enforcement on rural public roadways, in addition to speed and intersection enforcement conducted by Winnipeg Police, Brandon Police and the RCMP.

There are also dedicated distracted driving enforcement, school-zone speed enforcement, and gravel road enforcement campaigns.

Of note, for the last 23 years MPI has funded the highly successful RoadWatch program, an anti-drinking and driving enforcement campaign which launches on the May long weekend and continues until November. Over its history, RoadWatch has taken several thousand impaired drivers off the roadways.

“We encourage all Manitobans to focus on road safety this summer, which means not driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol, keeping speeds within the posted limits, and putting down our phones so our attention is on the road at all times. After such a challenging year and a half, we all have the direct ability to help save lives this season through these simple actions,” Jatana said.

Summer road safety tips

The causes of the majority of serious collisions on Manitoba roads can be attributed to high-risk driving behaviours, including: impaired driving, including alcohol or drugs, speeding, and distracting driving.

Whether you’re headed to the cottage, a bonfire, or the beach, follow these road safety tips this season:

  • Don’t drive impaired. Both drugs and alcohol can affect a person’s ability to drive. On average, 25 people in Manitoba are killed yearly due to impaired driving.
  • Buckle up! A person is nearly 50 times more likely to be killed and four times more likely to be seriously injured when not wearing a seatbelt.
  • Don’t text and drive. On average, 28 people are killed yearly in Manitoba in a distracted driving collision.
  • Drive within the posted speed limit or to weather conditions. On average, 20 people are killed yearly in Manitoba in a speed-related collision.
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