BC Road Safety Strategy
The BC Road Safety Strategy is governed by a Steering Committee, which includes members who have a shared responsibility for road safety in BC. Members contribute a broad scope of knowledge and experience regarding road safety progress and challenges, and collaborate to identify opportunities to work towards success of the BC Road Safety Strategy.
BC Road Safety Strategy 2025: A Collaborative Framework for Road Safety
Whether you’re a driver, a pedestrian, a cyclist, a skateboarder, or another type of road user, you want to be confident that B.C.’s roads are safe. Based on three pillars and rooted in the vision of realizing zero fatalities and serious injuries on B.C. roads, this framework outlines the network of tools, initiatives, awareness campaigns and enforcement programs that are creating a road safety network in B.C.
Message from the Ministers
The BC Road Safety Strategy 2025 is of interest and importance to everyone in our province, no matter how you get around.
Much has changed over the years covered by the previous strategy, updated in 2016. Our government has steadily worked to advance the fundamentals of a Safe System approach for road safety: safe drivers, safe speeds, safe transportation infrastructure and safe vehicles.
Notably, B.C. has:
- Introduced mandatory entry-level training (MELT) for new commercial drivers and, working with police agencies, increased commercial vehicle safety inspections.
- Established consistent Class 4 operator training requirements across the taxi, chauffeur and ride-hailing sector.
- Increased to 24/7 the operating hours of intersection safety cameras that ticket vehicles going through red lights and added automated speed enforcement equipment at some of B.C.’s highest-risk intersections.
- Toughened penalties for drug-affected driving in ways that complement the Criminal Code provisions that the federal government brought in before legalizing non-medical cannabis.
- Deployed electronic signs that allow for varying the posted speed limit on provincial highways when road conditions change.
- Reduced the maximum posted speed limit on certain highway sections where research supported doing so to increase safety.
- Increased financial penalties and lengthened driving bans for high-risk behaviours like excessive speeding and distracted driving.
Today, more people are embracing new, sustainable and affordable vehicle alternatives—and we’re responding, with a clear focus on safety. Under B.C.’s strategy for cleaner, more active transportation (Move. Commute. Connect.), we’re now collaborating with a number of local governments on pilot programs allowing for legal, safe operation of electric kick scooters.
By many measures, including overall traffic fatalities and injuries, 2019 was the safest time in years to be on B.C.’s roads. We anticipate even better results when the numbers settle for 2020.
While BC's Road Safety Strategy 2025 is a framework for further progress, its success depends on the choices that each of us make. We hope you will read with interest and make a personal commitment to the safety of yourself, your family and other road users.
The Honourable Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General
The Honourable Rob Fleming, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure
Message from the BC Road Safety Steering Committee
Road safety is a shared responsibility that involves collaboration and engagement with many road safety partners. In B.C., we are fortunate to have an active and passionate road safety sector dedicated to the vision of reducing road traffic deaths and injuries.
As the Steering Committee leading the BC Road Safety Strategy 2025: A Collaborative Framework for Road Safety, we understand the importance of revitalizing B.C.’s approach to road safety to make it inclusive of all British Columbians. With this framework, we can move forward on our individual organizational mandates to support improved road safety outcomes while working together to drive innovation and action across the road safety sector. We recently expanded our Steering Committee membership to include representation from the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation in recognition of the unique road safety challenges faced by Indigenous communities.
This revitalized framework is focused on achievable goals that align with federal and international targets, and is based on a comprehensive, Safe System approach incorporating all factors that contribute to protecting road users. Built on three pillars that are critical to making B.C. roads safer and reducing fatalities, this framework provides the foundation for a collaborative, data-driven approach to road safety.
Together, we can be proud of what we are collectively achieving on road safety, celebrate each other’s contributions, and inspire each other to go even further. We are committed to not only focus on ensuring the whole road system works to protect British Columbians, but also identifying ways to do more of what we know works.
Our success will depend on continued engagement with our partners, implementing evidence-based tools and interventions and ensuring British Columbians have the right information to make safe road choices.
Patricia Boyle, Superintendent of Motor Vehicles, Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General
Chief Neil Dubord, (Delta Police Department) Chair of the BC Association of Chiefs of Police Traffic Safety Committee
Dr. Martin Lavoie, Deputy Provincial Health Officer, Office of the Provincial Health Officer
Dr. Ian Pike, Professor, Pediatrics and Director, BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit
Dr. Chris Stewart-Patterson, Doctors of BC
Lorie Hrycuik, Executive Lead, Population and Public Health, Ministry of Health
Lisa Lapointe, Chief Coroner, Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General
Lindsay Matthews, Vice President, Public Affairs and Driver Licensing, ICBC
Jennifer Melles, Assistant Deputy Minister Strategic Partnerships and Initiatives Division, Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation
Ed Miska, Acting Assistant Deputy Minister Highway Services, Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure
Mark Ordeman, Acting Manager, Transportation and Occupational Road Safety, WorkSafeBC
Sandra Sajko, Executive Director, Police Services, Policing and Security Branch, Ministry of Public Safety & Solicitor General
Superintendent Holly Turton, Vice-Chair of the BC Association of Chiefs of Police Traffic Safety Committee
Cyra Yunkws, Councillor, Village of Warfield, Union of BC Municipalities
When you head out—whether by bike, by car or on foot—you want to be confident that you’re going to get to your destination safely.
As our population increases, the challenge of keeping B.C. roads safe is growing more complex. By 2041, it’s expected that 6.5 million people will live in B.C.—up 1.4 million from today. B.C. also welcomes more than 20 million visitors each year to all corners of our province. Together with rapidly changing technology and a shift to more active transportation options, this means more road users and types of road users than ever before.
Road safety remains one of our most pressing public health issues. Motor vehicle crashes are one of the leading causes of unintentional injury and death. Every year, collisions result in the injury or death of someone’s mother, father, sister, brother or child. Last year alone, more than 250 people died on our roads and more than 92,000 people were injured in crashes. Road crashes generate large costs to society, including health care, and put additional pressure on emergency room departments and other areas of the health care delivery system.
The success of the BC Road Safety Strategy 2025: A Collaborative Framework for Road Safety requires ongoing effort and commitment from the entire road safety community. This framework supports a vision for working together to reduce fatalities and serious injuries, but it can only be achieved by the continued efforts of all partners.
RoadSafetyBC has secured funding through Transport Canada’s Enhanced Road Safety Transfer Payment Program (ERSTPP) to help support the revitalization of the BC Road Safety Strategy 2025: A Collaborative Framework for Road Safety.
Cost of Crashes
Every crash, whether it results in death or injury, affects our community and impacts somebody’s loved one. Direct healthcare costs for transport injuries in 2019 are estimated at $526.7 million —that’s $1.44 million per day or over $60,000 per hour.
Moving Toward Vision Zero
No loss of life on our roads is acceptable. The goal of Vision Zero, a globally recognized approach to road safety, is to eliminate motor vehicle crash fatalities and serious injuries. This vision guides B.C.’s approach to road safety and has been adopted by Canada, other Canadian provinces and several B.C. cities.
Vision Zero starts with the belief that everyone has the right to move safely in their communities — by car, truck, bicycle, foot or any other method. Road system designers, policy makers and users equally share responsibility for safe travel. Vision Zero recognizes that people make mistakes, but the road system — its design, the rules of use and all associated policies and activities — can lessen the severity of the crashes resulting from inevitable mistakes.
To help achieve Vision Zero, road safety partners in B.C. can work together toward targets that reflect a provincial commitment to making our roads safe.
“Every road crash death is a tragedy, especially as so many of these incidents are preventable.” — Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe, Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General
Continuous downward trends in the rate-based number of fatalities and serious injuries (per 100,000 population).
Support the global goal set by the Stockholm Declaration on road safety to reduce road traffic deaths and injuries by 50% by 2030.
As the road safety sector works toward a continuous reduction in fatality and serious injury rates in B.C., RoadSafetyBC will track these activities and actions and report annually on progress.
In alignment with Canada’s Road Safety Strategy 2025, the Steering Committee will support projects that strive to reduce the rate of fatalities and serious injuries. Overall performance will be measured by an annual downward trend over the next 10 years in fatalities and serious injuries per 100,000 population.
A website dedicated to the BC Road Safety Strategy 2025: A Collaborative Framework for Road Safety will provide updates on road safety initiatives underway across government, engagement opportunities for road safety partners to work with the Steering Committee on priority projects, and a road safety education and awareness calendar.
Regular communications will take place with road safety partners to create a platform to share information across the sector and keep partners informed on road safety issues, updates and successes.
The Road Already Travelled
B.C.’s first strategy, Road Safety Strategy 2015 and Beyond, was launched in 2013 and updated in 2016 as Moving to Vision Zero: Road Safety Strategy Update and Showcase of Innovation in British Columbia.
A positive change that grew out of the 2015 and Beyond strategy was the coming together of the road safety community. Partners who had a shared interest in road safety but had never before worked together created a forum in B.C. that supported sharing ideas and best practices and working in a new, collaborative way. Annual assembly meetings created an opportunity for partners to connect, share knowledge, learn together and identify areas for possible collaboration.
Road safety partners, working together on committees supporting the BC Road Safety Strategy, created several valuable resources to encourage and support road safety across B.C. These included toolkits to help municipalities design safer roads, campaigns to inform the public how to drive safely around commercial trucks, and a sector-wide road safety calendar of all major road safety related campaigns across the province. As well, a Vision Zero logo was designed so that partners had a visual way of identifying and promoting their road safety initiatives.
In 2018, B.C. was also host to the Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals (CARSP) Conference, which brought together more than 250 road safety professionals from around North America and beyond to discuss and discover new and innovative road safety measures and how to integrate those best practices into their road safety plans. These activities demonstrate the steady progress that we have made over the last few years in road safety.
Statistics show how far we have come: B.C.’s fatality rate is the lowest it’s ever been. Compared to other provinces, in 2018, B.C. had the fourth-lowest fatality rate behind Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba. B.C.’s injury rates are also on a downward trend, but we know that we have more work to do. The burden of injuries sustained in a crash is profound, often affecting the quality of life of British Columbians and adding to financial costs of our insurance system.
Indigenous Peoples Road Safety
Motor vehicle crashes are one of the leading causes of injury and death for Indigenous people in B.C. and account for a greater proportion of deaths in this population than in the non-Indigenous population. The B.C. Road Safety Strategy 2025: A Collaborative Framework for Road Safety recognizes the unique road safety challenges faced by Indigenous communities and understands the importance of working in conjunction with Indigenous partners to help reduce fatalities and serious injuries.
Many Indigenous Peoples in B.C. live in rural and remote communities that are only accessible by resource or forestry roads. People in these communities tend to have to travel longer distances, are more likely to encounter poor road conditions or weather-related hazards and may also experience a longer emergency response time when a crash does occur. Connectivity issues in rural and remote areas add challenges, affecting communication as well as access to essential government services.
There are also often barriers to accessing driver training or driver licensing services. Without a valid licence or safe, reliable transportation options, many Indigenous Peoples can experience challenges accessing their traditional territory, securing or maintaining employment, and can be burdened with high costs to access crucial services outside of their communities.
The BC Road Safety Strategy Steering Committee recognizes the Province’s obligations under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Draft Principles that guide B.C.’s relationship with Indigenous Peoples. The Steering Committee is committed to working together with Indigenous Peoples in B.C. to better understand the barriers and challenges Indigenous communities face and look for avenues to address these road safety issues and concerns.
A Strong Foundation Moving Forward
The B.C. Road Safety Strategy 2025: A Collaborative Framework for Road Safety is built on three pillars. Together, the pillars form a network of tools, initiatives, awareness campaigns and enforcement that are making our roads safer. This collaborative and effective approach keeps our vision – to realize zero fatalities and injuries on our roads – front and centre.
Pillar 1: Working Together For The Future Of Road Safety
This pillar focuses on how the road safety sector is working together using a Safe Systems Approach and public health perspective to solve road safety issues. This holistic approach emphasizes shared accountability for road safety and incorporates a multitude of perspectives, communities, viewpoints, and experiences.
Pillar 2: Tools To Make Our Roads Safer
Having the right road safety tools and using them effectively can move the needle on road safety. By showcasing innovation, leveraging business intelligence to make data-driven decisions, and highlighting technological advances, we can realize gains in road safety. This pillar highlights how enforcement, infrastructure, data and other tools can be used to make our roads safer.
Pillar 3: Inspiring British Columbians To Make Safe Road Choices
Education and awareness are important to helping British Columbians make safe road choices. Everyone is accountable for their actions on the road, whether they are drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, or another type of road user. It’s important that everyone has the information and understanding they need to make safe road choices. This pillar emphasizes how the public can contribute to reductions in fatalities and injuries.
Pillar 1: Working Together for the Future of Road Safety
Collaboration is key. This is especially true for road safety, where accountabilities are spread across different levels of government, private and public agencies, and partner organizations. Each has their own road safety priorities and focus areas that, together, create a comprehensive network of road safety programs, supports and accountabilities. By working together across the sector, our collective actions will deliver a comprehensive network of programs, initiatives and activities that will result in greater road safety.
The new framework focuses on the breadth of road safety programs, supports and initiatives in B.C. and creates a new, holistic and collaborative way of moving forward together. It is a living and ongoing hub of information showcasing initiatives and plans across government that are moving us toward our goal of reducing road fatalities and serious injuries across the province.
Everyone Can Make A Difference
There are a range of partners who can make a difference in road safety: all levels of government; the health, justice, public safety, insurance and non-profit sectors; road safety advocates and researchers; and local communities. To achieve the goals of Vision Zero, they all must play a part. Individual citizens also have a role to play, both in taking responsibility for learning the rules of the road and in ensuring they take safe actions when travelling around the province.
A Road System That Works Together
A Safe System approach recognizes that road users will make mistakes. This means that the systems we have in place— physical infrastructure, education and awareness, enforcement and policies—must be multi-faceted and span all partnerships to effectively reduce the severity of collisions and ultimately eliminate them altogether. Meaningful and effective actions need to be evidence-based and focused on safe road users, safe speeds, safe roads and safe vehicles.
Safe Road Users
Safety starts with the individual. While most people are very responsible road users, mistakes happen, and sometimes dangerous or careless decisions have devastating effects. The Safe System approach uses education and awareness campaigns to ensure road users are informed on how to make the right road choices, and gives authorities the right tools to enforce these behaviours.
Speed management is an important part of the Safe System approach. When vehicles travel at higher speeds, it increases the severity of injuries and the chance of death when a crash does happen. Even small reductions in speed make a positive difference. Efforts at all levels of government can play a role in determining high-risk areas that may benefit from a reduction of the speed limit.
A fundamental part of the Safe System approach is that the roads should be designed to prevent mistakes by road users, and when mistakes do happen to lessen the impact of that mistake. As British Columbians become more active, new road improvements like protected bike lanes, high-friction surfaces and other targeted road infrastructure changes will help save lives.
Fundamental to a safe system is ensuring that the vehicles we drive keep us safe if a crash occurs. Over the past several decades, there has been significant technological progress toward protecting road users through better vehicle safety design and advances in safety mechanisms and standards for vehicles.
The Health Sector
When a crash does happen, health care professionals are essential to the health and safety of those involved. From the first responders who rush you to the hospital, to the nurses and technicians who get you into the emergency room, to the doctors who treat your injuries—each has an important role to play in saving lives.
However, road safety is not only about preventing crashes or injuries but also about encouraging more active forms of transportation.
”Road Safety is at the intersection of a lot of the work that we do in a variety of sectors, and it’s by working together that we can really make a difference.” — Dr. Martin Lavoie, Deputy Provincial Health Officer, Office of the Provincial Health Officer
Getting Active Together
Public health and road safety are connected when actions on the roads, such as speed and high traffic volumes, prevent opportunities for healthy transportation choices. Move. Commute. Connect., the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s Active Transportation Strategy, is transforming how people move. The strategy encourages more active transportation, including walking, cycling, skateboarding, in-line skating or other wheel-based forms of human and motor-assisted transportation. The goal is to double the percentage of trips taken with active transportation in the province by 2030.
Did you know? British Columbia has the highest percentage of active transportation trips for commuting to work (at 10%) of all Canadian provinces.
Safety For Workers
Road safety is a serious concern for people who drive or bike as a component of their workday. Whether running business errands in their personal vehicle, working as a bike courier or driving professionally in a company fleet vehicle, workers must be kept safe. WorkSafeBC is an important partner that promotes road safety for employers and workers through its Road Safety at Work initiative. Employers and workers can access free online resources and courses, including workshops, webinars, and consulting services, to help them plan, implement and monitor effective road safety programs aimed at eliminating work-related motor vehicle crashes, fatalities and injuries in B.C.
Coverage When You Need It
The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) is B.C.’s public auto insurer. It provides licences to nearly 3.6 million British Columbians. Preventing road crashes and injuries is a top priority for ICBC. For the past 30 years, ICBC’s road improvement program has championed innovations in road safety, such as modern roundabouts and road safety audits, and invested over $209 million in 7,688 projects. The road improvement program is just one aspect of ICBC’s commitment to help make B.C. roads safer. ICBC’s road safety investments focus on the systemic causes of crashes—drivers, roads and vehicles—and support programs proven to prevent crashes and help make everyone safer.
When crashes do happen however, ICBC’s Enhanced Care coverage will provide British Columbians with the care they need, when they need it, for as long as they need it. Drivers, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists will all have access to significantly improved care and recovery benefits if they’re injured in a crash, regardless of whether they were responsible. Enhanced Care benefits are available to British Columbians injured in crashes anywhere in Canada and the U.S.
Governments Play A Key Role
All levels of government have a responsibility for road safety—national, provincial, and local.
The federal government is responsible for developing and enforcing new motor vehicle safety standards and regulations pertaining to tires and child restraints, as well as interprovincial commercial vehicle safety fitness.
The provinces and territories are responsible for building and maintaining roads, commercial vehicle operations, driver and vehicle licensing and the development and implementation of road safety strategies. In British Columbia, the Motor Vehicle Act governs all road use, penalties and rules, and responsibility is shared between the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
Municipalities also have a role in ensuring road safety through their application of bylaws, zoning, road infrastructure maintenance and improvements to areas where mixed road use demands consideration of local community input.
Local Government Leadership
Several B.C. municipalities are leaders in road safety. For example, Victoria, Vancouver, Surrey and Burnaby all have strategic road safety plans that adopt Vision Zero in engineering practices and policies. These plans are driving road safety initiatives ranging from pilot projects for lower speed limits, to safer bicycle lanes, and to more visible crosswalks. Municipalities are also partnering with local police, school districts and health authorities to further integrate the Safe System approach into their strategies.
The City of Surrey is a national road safety leader, being among the first municipalities to adopt Vision Zero to end deaths and injuries on its roads. Using a data-driven, evidence led approach is yielding results—even within a few years, road fatalities have declined.
Police are important partners in road safety, ensuring that the rules of the road are enforced for all road users. Every region of the province has specific Integrated Road Safety Units (IRSU) that are made up of full-time, dedicated traffic enforcement officers from both the RCMP and independent municipal police agencies. Funded in partnership with ICBC and the federal government, these units target high-risk driving behaviours that are the most frequent contributors to casualty crashes in B.C.: speeding, aggressive driving, impaired driving, seatbelt usage, and distracted driving.
Working Together Under The New Framework
To promote ongoing collaboration, an enhanced governance structure has been established for the BC Road Safety Strategy Steering Committee that will support targeted, results-oriented projects focused on improving road safety in the province.
Through evidence-based analysis, the Steering Committee will identify key road safety challenges impacting British Columbians. Project-specific subcommittees will be convened to examine a specific issue and develop potential actions. This collaborative, issue-focused approach is designed to draw on the expertise and experience of more than 60 partner organizations and agencies, with the purpose of addressing key road safety issues in B.C.
Information about these projects and how the road safety sector partners can get involved will be included on the BC Road Safety Strategy 2025: A Collaborative Framework for Road Safety website.
Pillar 2: Tools to make our Roads Safer
Using the right tools will help ensure that road safety measures are effective. This framework integrates a wide range of methods, interventions and actions — including data, policy and legislation, fines and penalties, enforcement, and infrastructure — that create the foundation for safer roads.
Making Data-Informed Decisions
Road safety policies, decisions and law-making need to be data-driven and assessed through a critical lens. Research and data are essential to making choices about which interventions and tools will have a positive impact on road safety and address the top contributing factors to road crashes in the province. Data-backed decisions ensure effectiveness and avoid knee-jerk reactions. Looking at data trends over time not only shows how B.C. is progressing but also how we are effecting change.
Improving Data Management
Improving how the road safety sector manages data collection, privacy concerns, and sharing among partners is a priority. B.C. is expanding new reporting tools and ways to share data with the public, with researchers and between data-collecting agencies.
Through their partnerships, RoadSafetyBC, ICBC and the police are sharing information to support more informed decision-making. Business intelligence leverages data and technology to provide a better understanding of what is happening on the roads. New features and visual tools now under development will continue to enhance information sharing for all partners.
In September 2019, RoadSafetyBC launched the eTicketing interactive dashboard. Enforcement partners have access to near realtime statistics on issuance, disputes, online payments and cancellations on a secure server. They can narrow down their search by date, detachment and charge time to understand eTicket violation trends quickly and easily.
RoadSafetyBC collects and reports 10-year statistics related to motor vehicle crashes, injuries and fatalities. Work is underway to enhance ways of sharing this information so road safety partners can easily access it to inform their decision-making.
ICBC is making more data accessible to the public than ever before. In 2020, ICBC began publishing open data sets, beginning with ICBC reported crashes and vehicle population data. The data sets are available in a convenient, customizable and self-serve format.
The BC Coroners Service is upgrading its case management system to enhance its ability to collect data and conduct ongoing surveillance of common causes and circumstances of death, including road fatalities. A robust case management system is a critical component of an effective death investigation service that provides reliable and timely information to support evidence-based public safety initiatives.
Many other organizations collect data important to understanding road safety in B.C. The health sector collects data on injury severity, patient hospitalizations and ambulance data. WorkSafeBC collects information on employer and worker safety. The transportation sector collects information on how weather conditions affect road use and the effectiveness of infrastructure in preventing crashes. The Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Agency collects safety data in relation to commercial vehicles. Taken together, data is a powerful tool for making informed, evidence-based road safety decisions.
“In a time of challenging mandates, competing resources and competing priorities, it’s important we use evidence to guide our decisions. Data allows us to take a more measured approach to target our solutions.” — Superintendent Holly Turton, Vice-Chair, BC Association of Chiefs of Police Traffic Safety Committee
Top Factors In Fatal Motor Vehicle Crashes
Police-reported data show us that the top contributing factors to fatal crashes include speeding, distraction/inattention and impairment. Understanding why people are being injured and killed on our roads supports evidence-based decisions on how best to intervene.
Vancouver Coastal Health’s 2019 Vision Zero Seed Grant supported First Nations, municipalities and regional districts in promoting road safety and working toward eliminating road-related fatalities and serious injuries. Through a multi-pronged and community-based approach, Wuikinuxv Nation installed road safety signs and engaged with community members to develop an ongoing, community-led road safety awareness program that includes the first-ever First Nations chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (FN MADD).
Addressing High-Risk Driving Behaviours
Effective and appropriate interventions are necessary to reduce the road safety risk caused by impaired driving. To better understand the issue of alcohol- and drug-affected driving, B.C. undertook a roadside survey in 2018 at five different locations to determine the prevalence of alcohol and/or drug use in drivers. Results showed almost 14% of drivers who participated in the survey tested positive for some form of drug or alcohol. These results established a baseline against which to compare future data and will help to determine the impact of legislation, enforcement and education campaigns in the ongoing fight against impaired driving. Planning is currently underway for a follow-up roadside survey.
Data shows that B.C. has seen significant reductions in alcohol-affected driving fatalities since 2010—a decrease of 50%. This is largely attributed to the police getting the tools they need to immediately remove alcohol-affected drivers from the road. Police can issue a 3-, 7- or 30-day Immediate Roadside Prohibition to anyone who provides a breath sample that registers over the prescribed limit. Anyone who fails the breath sample or refuses to comply will be issued a 90-day Immediate Roadside Prohibition.
Since the legalization of non-medical cannabis in 2017, new tools have been introduced for police to address drugs and driving in B.C. In July 2019, zero tolerance restrictions were expanded to include the presence of a drug for new drivers in the Graduated Licensing Program, and the 24-hour prohibition was refined to include an administrative review process. The most significant new tool introduced was a 90-day administrative driving prohibition for driving while affected by a drug or combination of alcohol and a drug.
The legalization of cannabis is still relatively new and there are a lot of unknowns. In particular, the accumulated data and program statistics remain relatively small. Work continues to implement more advanced tools to immediately remove drug-affected drivers from the roads.
In 2019, independent municipal police increased the number of hours they spent on the road enforcing impaired driving laws by 37% and increased the administration of Approved Screening Device breath tests by 87%.
A speeding car takes longer to stop and with higher speeds, the risk of a crash increases significantly. We know this high-risk driving behaviour kills. The higher the speed, the higher the likelihood that a crash would result in a fatality. Addressing high-risk behaviours like speeding will continue to be a priority.
In 2018, after a three-year review of data looking at over 1,300 kilometres of highway, the Province lowered speed limits on 15 sections to keep people safer and reduce the chance of speed related collisions. Many contributing factors were considered in this review, including speed, distracted driving, wildlife, changing weather and people driving too fast for conditions. Continued monitoring of crash data on B.C. roads will ensure speed limits are in place for the greatest safety benefit.
In 2019, the Province installed 35 cameras at high-risk intersections to ticket the fastest vehicles and to deter high-risk speeding. Data is being collected and closely monitored for these select sites and will continue to be analyzed to ensure the greatest safety benefits. In 2020, the new speed cameras saw 72,546 speed tickets issued, with the highest speed recorded as 182 km/h in a 60 km/h zone. Speeding tickets made up 70% of Enhanced Enforcement efforts in 2019.
B.C. has additional penalties and fines in place for drivers who are caught speeding excessively (i.e., more than 40 km/h over the speed limit). The driver’s car is impounded immediately, they receive a fine (which increases based on their speed), and three penalty points are added to their licence. Excessive speeding violations also lead to higher insurance costs for the driver through ICBC’s Driver Risk Premium and Driver Penalty Point Premium. Drivers may face additional penalties through the RoadSafetyBC Driver Improvement Program, including being prohibited from driving for up to one year.
Did you know? If a car crashes at 80 km/h, the likelihood of death is 20x higher than if the car crashed at 30 km/h. The faster a vehicle is moving on the road, the more likely it is to be involved in a crash. Every 1 km/h increase in speed results in a 3% increase in crashes that result in an injury, and a 4-5% increase in fatal crashes. [World Health Organization]
Distraction & Inattention
Advances in hand-held and vehicle technology have increased the number of potential distractions for a driver while on the road. As distracted driving and inattention continues to be the number one cause of crashes, we must focus on educating drivers and enforcing distracted driving laws.
Distracted driving laws came into effect in 2010. This behaviour is now categorized as a high-risk driving offence. Repeat offenders with two or more offences in a one-year period will trigger an automatic review of their driving record. The review could result in a three- to 12-month driving prohibition. The financial penalty for one distracted driving ticket in a year is $578 (one $368 fine plus the $210 ICBC Driver Penalty Premium on four points).
New tools to help curb distracted driving are being tested. ICBC has recruited more than 1,000 newer drivers across B.C. to see if telematics can encourage safe driving behaviour and reduce the number of crashes on B.C. roads. Techpilot participants install a “smart tag” in the vehicle they drive and pair it with an app they download onto their smartphone. The tag and app gather information that assesses driver behaviour— hand-held phone use, acceleration, braking, cornering and speed—that can result in crashes. Drivers earn rewards for safe driving, which they can redeem for digital gift cards. Data collection will conclude in October 2021 and be followed by data analysis and evaluation in 2022.
Did you know that while cellphones are a top reason for distracted driving, there are many types of distraction at the wheel?
Here are the top eight:
- Using a cellphone
- Eating and drinking
- Talking to passengers
- Using GPS
- Adjusting the radio or CD player
- Attending to pets
Targeting High-Crash Locations
Intersections are some of the busiest, most congested road areas, with multiple types of road users creating high-collision zones. Using data to determine which intersections are the most high-risk is a smart way to ensure intervention initiatives and technologies are deployed effectively.
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has installed high-friction surface treatments at intersections with a history of crashes to help prevent or reduce skidding and rear-end collisions. Collision and claims data helped determine which locations were the highest risk. Friction between tire and road is such an important factor for stopping vehicles quickly when they need to brake suddenly. This surface treatment is expected to have a significant impact in reducing collisions, especially in wet road conditions. Early indications from a sample of video data taken from these locations show that rear-end conflicts have reduced by 33%.
Intersection safety cameras also have a proven record of curbing red-light runners and the serious crashes they cause. The Province operates 140 red-light cameras at high-crash intersections in 26 communities. The cameras take pictures of vehicles running red lights and the vehicle owners are ticketed. Camera locations were selected after examining risk factors—including crash frequency, severity and type, and the potential for improvement—at 1,400 intersections in B.C. High-risk intersections are closely monitored to ensure cameras are placed at locations that will see the greatest safety gains.
Protecting Vulnerable Road Users
People who walk, cycle, or use another type of mobility device other than a car are particularly vulnerable and at an increased risk when sharing the roadways with vehicles. In a collision, a pedestrian or cyclist is no match for a 2000-kilogram motorized vehicle. While injuries and fatalities involving collisions between vehicles have declined, similar downward trends are not happening when it comes to vehicle collisions involving cyclists and pedestrians.
In 2020, the Province announced an increase to the fine for “dooring,” which occurs when a driver opens the door of their parked car into a lane of oncoming bike traffic—an action that can cause serious injury to the cyclist. With a fine of $368, drivers are reminded to be aware of other road users and look before they open their car door.
Emerging Personal Transportation Options
People are changing the way they travel, and it’s important that regulations address e-mobility as an emerging mode of personal transportation. In March 2021, the Province announced e-mobility pilot projects for the use of electric kick scooters in six communities. Motor Vehicle Act changes have allowed these communities to collaborate with the Province in a three-year pilot project that examines the safety of the electric kick scooter on public roadways. Additional pilots may be considered as the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure works with communities on increasing safety for vulnerable road users.
The six participating municipalities are:
- City of Kelowna
- City of Vancouver
- City of North Vancouver
- District of North Vancouver
- District of West Vancouver
- City of Vernon
With the focus on climate change and the desire to find travel alternates to motorized vehicles, active transportation is on the rise as a GHG-emission-free transportation option. With more people moving around in these active ways, there is an increased need for tools to keep people safe. Evidence shows that physically separating cars and trucks from other road users significantly reduces the crash risk. The Province has recently invested $16.7 million through StrongerBC, B.C.’s Economic Recovery Plan, toward more than 45 infrastructure projects on provincial roads and properties focused on active transportation safety and access improvements. This includes multi-use pathways and rail trails, highway crossings, transit stop improvements, sidewalk installations, lighting, and shoulder widening for pedestrians and cyclists.
The Province is also partnering with local communities across the province to invest in building safer active transportation infrastructure through the Active Transportation Grant program. Indigenous governments and local governments can apply to have the B.C. government share the cost of their active transportation infrastructure projects, such as protected multi-use paths, lighting, end-of-trip facilities, way-finding and more. The British Columbia Active Transportation Design Guide also provides practical design guidance and application information on active transportation infrastructure for jurisdictions of all sizes throughout the province.
To complement the tools, laws and penalties in place to keep our roads safe, road users need to have the best information to make safe road choices. Each one of us has a responsibility to keep ourselves and others safe when on the road. Education and awareness programs can help us make smart decisions.
Active Transportation projects are helping to achieve the CleanBC goal of doubling trips taken by walking, biking and other kinds of active networks by the year 2030.
Burns Lake and Lake Babine First Nation – Safe Walking
Indigenous Peoples have a disproportionate number of road-related injuries and deaths. Something as simple as better sidewalks can make a significant difference. With funding from the Active Transportation Infrastructure Grants program, the Village of Burns Lake and Lake Babine First Nation are partnering to create safe walking access on improved sidewalks that will link two seniors’ residential facilities, the hospital, Lake Babine Nation, William Konkin Elementary and the Rod Reid Nature Trail. Other northern First Nations—Gitga’at First Nation and Witset First Nation—are following suit with their own active transportation plans.
Village of Pemberton – Signal Hill Elementary Crosswalk Lights
Funded through Vancouver Coastal Health’s Vision Zero grant program, the Village of Pemberton installed a flashing crosswalk light at a local elementary school on a busy section of this provincial highway. This project is intended to reduce speed on this frequented corridor to better facilitate active transport of children attending school. It will also increase safe and convenient access to nearby trails, encouraging use of existing infrastructure that facilitates physical activity and social connectedness.
Pillar 3: Inspiring British Columbians to make Safe Road Choices
To complement the tools, laws and penalties in place to keep our roads safe, road users need to have the best information to make safe road choices. Each one of us has a responsibility to keep ourselves and others safe when on the road. Education and awareness programs can help us make smart decisions.
Getting The Message Out
Broadly accepted marketing wisdom says that a person needs to hear a message at least seven times before it sinks in. Getting the word out on road safety takes co-ordination and partnership. Education and awareness would not be possible without the help of B.C.’s road safety partners. Many different campaigns take place throughout the year, addressing road safety risks and reinforcing life-saving information with the goal of inspiring safe habits in road users. It’s only through these combined efforts with our partners that the road safety message will permeate the public consciousness and change behaviour.
Motorcyclists make up a very small percentage of actively licensed drivers in B.C., but they are over-represented in casualty crashes. In 2019, there were 2,200 motorcycle crash incidents, resulting in 31 fatalities. B.C.’s Graduated Licensing Program for Motorcycles (GLP-M) has remained largely unchanged since 1998, while increased standards have been introduced elsewhere in Canada. To ensure the safety of new riders, B.C. is examining licensing requirements for motorcycles.
Awareness and education campaigns provide British Columbians with important road safety tips and information. Many campaigns are accompanied by targeted and effective law enforcement actions carried out by the RCMP and other police agencies. While road safety laws are in place year-round, these well-publicized enforcement efforts remind drivers that their behavior and habits on the road matter.
Communication methods have changed significantly over the last 20 years and today, a lot of information is just a click away. To keep up with this trend, road safety education efforts must also shift and adapt. Social media is now extensively used to impart critical road safety information to the public. Twitter accounts by @RoadSafetyBC, @TranBC and @ICBC, as well as blogs, YouTube and other social media channels, all share road safety information. Being nimble and responsive with how road safety information is shared will not only keep B.C. a step ahead in an ever-changing communications landscape but will also ensure critical information gets out to road users quickly and effectively.
C.O.R.E.Y. Motorcycle Safety was founded by Denise Lodge after her 21-year-old son Corey was killed riding his motorcycle. Corey died less than 24 hours after writing his motorcycle knowledge test and purchasing his bike. CoreySafe Society’s program “C.O.R.E.Y. Ride & Drive Safe” gives an introduction to motorcycle safety that covers risks for drivers as well as riders. Topics include the importance of getting training from qualified instructors, the proper protective safety equipment to wear whether riding a road or dirt bike or ATV, riding a motorcycle that fits your skill level, and legal consequences related to both on-road and off-road driving. The school program has been in operation since 2016 and is an example of how one person can save lives and make a positive impact on road safety through education and awareness.
For more than three decades, MADD Canada has delivered effective education and awareness campaigns and victim services, while advocating for public policy changes to address impaired driving. Some of the movement’s earliest pioneers started in British Columbia and there are now 16 Chapters or Community Leaders operating in the province. While campaign approaches have changed over the years, in B.C., MADD has recently reached into the vault to resurrect an effective crash-car campaign. It simply but powerfully exhibits, at a high-traffic location, a vehicle that was involved in an impaired driving crash.
Sharing The Road With Commercial Vehicles And Road Workers
In recent years, there has been more focused attention on road interactions with commercial vehicles, along with recognition that roads are often places where people work. Government agencies and the private sector are acting to reduce these types of collisions, by giving all road users the information needed to make smart and safe choices.
Mandatory Entry-Level Training
According to ICBC data, in 2019 there were almost 810,000 commercial vehicles insured in the province. Commercial vehicle drivers navigate long driving routes and challenging driving conditions like winding, narrow mountain passes and icy highways, all while carrying large, heavy loads. On March 31, 2021, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure announced the Province would introduce Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) for new Class 1 commercial driver’s licence applicants, effective October 18, 2021. B.C.’s new Class 1 MELT course curriculum exceeds the minimum training standards set out in the National Safety Code Standard 16 for Class 1 entry-level training of truck drivers and aligns with best practices from other Canadian jurisdictions with a Class 1 MELT program. B.C.’s Class 1 MELT course curriculum includes 140 hours of training divided between practical behind-the-wheel driving hours, in-yard hours and theoretical instructional hours, as well as air brake training. The training emphasizes safe operating practices for mountainous geography and diverse driving conditions to ensure commercial drivers are prepared for B.C.’s highway network and changing weather patterns.
Be Truck Aware
Almost 20% of traffic fatalities involve a crash with a heavy commercial vehicle, even though they make up a relatively small percentage of all registered vehicles in the province. Studies also show that in fatal car-truck crashes, the driver of the passenger vehicle is at fault in at least two-thirds of the incidents. When crashes between cars and large trucks occur, the occupants of the passenger vehicle are at least four times more likely to be killed than the driver of the truck.
The Be Truck Aware campaign brings together an alliance of partners from across the commercial vehicle industry, including the BC Trucking Association, Safety Driven—Trucking Safety Council of BC, Teamsters Local 31, Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement, RCMP, ICBC, WorkSafeBC and RoadSafetyBC. Usually held in October, this campaign raises awareness of the hazards of passenger vehicles and large commercial trucks not sharing the road safely. The first Be Truck Aware campaign ran in 2017 and planning is underway for the 2021 campaign.
“The stopping distance for heavy commercial vehicles increases at higher speeds, as does the force of impact, so safety measures that help reduce these risks for both commercial and passenger vehicle drivers are important.” — Dave Earle, President and CEO of the BC Trucking Association
Between 2010 and 2019, 13 roadside workers were killed and 204 injured. Cone Zone is an annual campaign highlighting the need for employers, workers, and drivers to do their part to prevent injuries and fatalities of roadside workers. Over 22 organizations— from government to the commercial vehicle industry to roadside employers— participate and share this message across the province. From May to August, drivers are urged to slow down and pay attention when approaching a cone zone. The Cone Zone campaign also educates employers about their legal responsibilities around employee health and safety, and provides roadside workers with information on how they can work safely. Social media stats on Cone Zone show that more people are getting the message. In 2019, the estimated number of people reached through Twitter campaigns increased by 158% to almost 1.3 million, up from just under 500,000 five years prior.
Driver Behavior: High Risk And Poor Habits
The goal of road safety education is to inform and inspire road users to change their driving behaviours and attitudes. Certain behaviours create significantly more danger not only for the driver, but for other road users as well. Education that addresses unsafe or careless behaviours can help inspire this change.
Wearing a seatbelt is the simplest way for drivers and passengers to protect themselves. The chance of surviving a vehicle crash increases dramatically if people are wearing a seatbelt properly. Based on data available from 2011 to 2016, 29% of drivers and passengers who were killed in a crash were not wearing a seatbelt. Seatbelt use has also been shown to provide a 53% reduction in risk of any injury among vehicle occupants following collisions.
The #BuckleUpBC campaign spreads awareness about the safety benefits of using properly installed occupant restraint systems, including seatbelts and child/booster seats. The campaign employs a powerful combination of social media to raise awareness and enforcement, to drive the message home at roadside. While seatbelt laws are in place year-round, every March and September police across B.C. participate in the Occupant Restraint targeted enforcement campaign. Police issue fines of $167 while reminding people that their seatbelt is the single most effective piece of safety equipment in the vehicle.
Cracking Down on Distracted Drivers
On average, 79 people are killed every year because of distracted and inattentive driving— making up more than one quarter of all crash fatalities in B.C. Just under 10,000 more people are injured, many of them seriously. It remains one of the top contributing factors in police-reported injury crashes. During the Distracted Driving campaign held twice a year, police target distracted driving with the goal of ending this dangerous behavior. Distracted driving can result in significant financial penalties, both in terms of fines and impact on insurance costs.
There are many types of distraction, but one of the most common is the use of personal electronic devices. You’re five times more likely to crash if you’re on your phone. — #EyesForwardBC
Seeing Success with CounterAttack
Alcohol- or drug-affected driving continues to be a high-risk behaviour that kills people on our roads. CounterAttack is a police-run roadblock tactic that catches drug- and alcohol affected drivers and helps reduce injuries and fatalities. CounterAttack campaigns have been run in B.C. for over 35 years, usually during July and December. Over time, CounterAttack has contributed to a downward trend in impairment related injuries and fatalities. In 1976, the year before CounterAttack road checks were introduced, more than 300 fatalities in B.C. resulted from impairment-related crashes; in 2019, 58 people were killed in such crashes.
“The RCMP have a commitment to all components of road safety, not just enforcement. The RCMP’s commitment to education is done through concentrating on public awareness through external communications with the public, such as media releases, social media and press conferences.” — Superintendent Holly Turton, Vice-Chair of the BC Association of Chiefs of Police Traffic Safety Committee
Rapidly Changing Road Conditions
Crashes where someone is killed or injured due to driving too fast for the road conditions more than double during the winter months—from an average of 99 crashes (September) to 220 crashes (December). The winter months are a particularly dangerous time for people who drive for work, with nearly 28% of all work-related crashes that result in injury and time loss occurring during these months.
Shift Into Winter
Held annually from October to April, the Shift Into Winter campaign provides resources on how to stay safe on the roads during winter. Between 2013 and 2019, Shift Into Winter Twitter activity increased by 311%, reaching a potential 3.5 million people. The campaign provides drivers with comprehensive information on how they can more safety drive on winter roads. The Province has also increased safety efforts with road maintenance, regulations for drivers and commercial drivers, and more effective signage about changing road conditions.
Did you know? B.C. is one of only two provinces in Canada that defines what a winter tire is and specifies where and when it is required to use them.
Vulnerable Road Users
There are more options and active ways to move around our communities now than ever before. New and improved infrastructure like protected bike lanes provides a safer way to get cycling. A 2011 study of cyclist injuries in Vancouver and Toronto found that protected bike lanes were safer than painted bike lanes on streets with parked cars, safer than multiuse paths for cyclists and pedestrians and safer than streets that had “sharrows”—shared lanes for cars and bikes. Most people know how to ride a bicycle, but not necessarily how to ride effectively and safely. It’s important to educate all road users about the rules of the road and how to safely share the space.
The BC Cycling Coalition, a non-profit advocacy organization, is embarking on a major revision of Bike Sense: The British Columbia Bicycle Operator’s Manual, last updated in 2013. The seventh edition will have useful information on bicycles and cycling for all ages and abilities and will be available free to all British Columbians by summer 2021.
Supporting Healthy Transportation Options
Spreading the word about active transportation helps more British Columbians utilize this healthy and efficient travel option. Bike to work and school events, like GoByBike week, motivate people to try commuting by bicycle. Supportive teams and fun prizes attract more new riders every year. Since 2012, the number of people participating in these events has more than tripled. The 2019 spring event attracted 11,824 first-time riders.
The Eagle Feather Reflector
After consultation with members of First Nations communities, ICBC chose the shape of an eagle feather for a new pedestrian reflector. The eagle feather is recognized by all First Nations in British Columbia as an esteemed symbol of honour, strength, trust, wisdom, power and freedom. The eagle is a protector and these reflectors are meant to protect the people who wear them. The reflectors were introduced to the public at the 2019 BC Elders Conference in Vancouver.
Stark reminders are the backbone of Preventable campaigns
‘Pavement Patty’ is a pavement decal that can be installed at crosswalks near schools to create the illusion of a child running across the street to fetch a ball as vehicles come closer. Patty first appeared near B.C. schools in 2009, and since then she’s attracted media around the globe, including in Germany and Japan. She’s noted in Ripley’s Believe It or Not! and international scholars have referenced ‘Pavement Patty” in books and manuscripts, specifically addressing how to get a driver’s attention.
Looking Ahead to the Future of Road Safety
The B.C. Road Safety Strategy 2025: A Collaborative Framework for Road Safety, shares a path forward for road safety that is for all British Columbians.
Innovation And Technology
For decades, driverless cars have been things of science fiction and fantasy—and now, they’re a reality. The road safety landscape in B.C. has already begun to shift into these uncharted waters. As technology evolves and new technologies emerge, our approach to road safety must continue to adjust and adapt. Autonomous and driverless cars, e-scooters and hoverboards are just some of the new transportation technologies on our roads. Innovation and new technologies will play an important role in enhancing mobility and road safety in our communities.
“Without a doubt, the most important benefit of innovation and technology is the role it plays in improving safety in our automobiles. We can expect even greater developments that monitor our driving activity, and provide information about mechanical or system problems, lane departure systems, forward collision warning systems and brake assist, to name but a few. An emerging technology called predictive maintenance will be able to alert drivers to potential issues they may experience in the future, from engine troubles to faulty brakes, or a taillight that’s about to burn out.” — Blair Qualey, New Car Dealers Association
Culture And Trends
How people move around is also evolving quickly. Trends toward more shared mobility options, increased sustainability and more active transportation must all be taken into consideration when looking at road design, policy development and community planning.
Fostering a culture of road safety in B.C. starts with protecting the most vulnerable road users. Continuing to create safe road systems that include safe spaces for walking, cycling and accessing mass transit will help B.C. move toward Vision Zero and the end goal of zero traffic fatalities.
“The future will be completely different than the past... with technology advancing very fast. Our problem used to be in not having enough data. Now, we have big data. We can completely change how we evaluate and optimize the system.” — UBC professor Dr. Tarek Sayed
Moving Forward Together
The importance of road safety cannot be underestimated. Every day in B.C., lives are permanently changed by road accidents caused by impairment, speeding, using a cellphone while driving or crossing the street, or any number of other momentary lapses in judgement or behaviour. The BC Road Safety Strategy 2025 creates a collaborative framework for making B.C. a better and safer place to live.
It is only by working together as a sector and inspiring safer choices on the road that B.C. will realize the continuous downward trend in fatalities and serious injuries that will lead to our success in reducing road traffic deaths and injuries by 50% by 2030. Together, we can make progress toward the vision of eliminating motor vehicle crash fatalities and serious injuries in B.C.
Appendix 1: Funding Streams
The B.C. Active Transportation Infrastructure Grants Program provides cost-sharing opportunities for network planning grants and infrastructure grants. Funding from these grant programs supports the development of active transportation infrastructure for all ages and abilities.
- Active Transportation Network Planning Grant: Network planning grants help communities develop active transportation network plans to support active transportation for all ages and abilities. The province cost-shares to a maximum of 50% or $50,000, whichever is less.
- Active Transportation Infrastructure Grant: Funding from these grant programs supports the development of active transportation infrastructure for all ages and abilities. The province cost-shares to a maximum of $500,000 per project.
The Active Transportation Planning program supports local governments in incorporating or enhancing active transportation components of formal planning documents (Official Community Plan, Sustainability Plan, Neighbourhood Plan, or Transportation Plan), including research, consultation, and policy development. Funding is provided by the Province of B.C. Local governments with a population of up to 25,000 that meet the grant criteria are eligible for up to $10,000 toward their active transportation planning costs.
Through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities you can apply for funding to support plans, studies, pilot projects and projects. This funding helps Canadian cities and communities of all sizes reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and improve their air quality.
Funding to create a plan that builds on a municipality’s sustainable community plans or strategies it already has in place.
Funding to assess whether a municipality’s initiative is technically and financially feasible, as well as its potential environmental, social and economic impact.
Funding to evaluate a small-scale version of a municipality’s proposed initiative in real-life conditions.
Funding to install a full-scale version of a municipality’s project, usually done after a pilot project.
The federal Gas Tax Fund (GTF) is a permanent source of funding provided up front, twice a year to provinces and territories, that in turn give this funding to their municipalities to support local infrastructure priorities. Municipalities can pool, bank and borrow against this funding, providing significant financial flexibility.
Appendix 2: Statistical Information
Charts and graphs included in this document are reported from RoadSafetyBC’s published report: Motor Vehicle Related Crashes, Injuries and Fatalities 10-year Statistics for British Columbia, 2010-2019 [PDF,15.1MB] For more detailed information, and including data settling and definitions, please visit this report.
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