Non-seatbelt use higher in rural Manitoba, while electronic communication device use higher in Winnipeg: Manitoba Public Insurance

A road safety observation study commissioned last fall by Manitoba Public Insurance reports that non-seatbelt use is higher in rural Manitoba with 10 per cent of all drivers observed not wearing their seatbelt, compared to three per cent in the Winnipeg capital region.

The two worst regions for non-seatbelt use were Interlake and Parkland at 16 and 14 per cent respectively. Meanwhile, the study also reported use of an electronic communication device (ECD) was higher in Winnipeg (10 per cent), compared to rural areas (three per cent).

“The purpose of this study was to obtain current rates of risky driving behaviour across Manitoba, with a focus on use of hand-operated electronic devices and seatbelt use,” said Satvir Jatana, MPI’s Chief Customer Officer. “The findings of this study will be used as a benchmark to monitor behaviour change overtime, and shared with the Manitoba Association of Chiefs of Police for the purpose of planning future enforcement and awareness campaigns.”

The Insurance Brokers Association of Manitoba (IBAM) is also an advocate for safe driving and warns that distracted driving can have both financial and human costs.

“Driving without a seatbelt is another example of dangerous driving that can ultimately lead to preventable accidents among our clients,” said Grant Wainikka, IBAM’s Chief Executive Officer. “Both non-seatbelt usage and distracted driving due to cell phones can lead to more severe accidents and in the long-term, higher premiums for Manitoba drivers. Safety needs to be the driver’s number one priority when behind the wheel.”

The road safety study was conducted in September (morning and afternoon hours) with an overall error rate of +/- 0.5 per cent. A total of nearly 29,000 vehicles were observed in 46 towns and cities with a population of at least 1,000. In total, eight economic regions were selected: Winnipeg capital region, Central Plains, Eastman, Interlake, Northern, Parkland, Pembina Valley and Westman.

Study Highlights:

  • Overall, seven per cent of all drivers observed were using an ECD in some capacity
  • ECD use appeared to be higher in areas with traffic lights
  • ECD use is highest among younger drivers
  • Overall, seven per cent of all drivers observed were not wearing their seatbelt
  • Those driving trucks had slightly higher rates of not wearing a seatbelt compared to passenger cars or vans/SUVs
  • Seatbelt non-use was split between males and females
  • Drivers in rural areas wore their seatbelt less often across all age groups
  • In cases where the driver was not wearing their seatbelt, 54 per cent of passengers were also not wearing their seatbelt

Overall, driver distraction is a leading contributor to fatal crashes in Manitoba, linked to nearly 50 per cent of all fatalities and 37 per cent of all serious injuries in 2020, according to MPI data. Using a hand-held electronic device while driving is illegal in Manitoba, with the offender receiving a $672 fine, three-day driving suspension for first-offenders and moving down five levels on the Driver Safety Rating scale. A subsequent conviction will result in a seven-day driving suspension and moving down the DSR scale five levels.

A person is more than 50 times more likely to be killed and almost four times more likely to be seriously injured when not wearing a seatbelt. Failure to wear a seatbelt will result in a fine of $200 and moving down two levels on the Driver Safety Rating scale.

“High-risk driving behaviours places all motorists at risk on our public roadways,” said Jatana. “This study confirmed too many drivers continue to exhibit high-risk behaviours which can easily be changed.”

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