Thursday, December 24, 2009

Are Canadians changing their drinking and driving habits?: Poll

OTTAWA, Dec. 22, 2009 /CNW/ – A new poll by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) reveals that Canadians may be changing their habits regarding driving after drinking.

The public opinion poll conducted in September investigated how many Canadians drove after drinking in the last year.

Nineteen per cent of Canadians polled admitted to driving after consuming any amount of alcohol in the past 30 days in 2009. This figure has consistently increased since 2005 and further suggests a stable upward trend in the number of people who admit to this behaviour.

The good news is that researchers were also able to identify a decrease in the number of Canadians who drove when they thought they were over the legal limit in 2008 and 2009; this in comparison to those who admitted to the same behaviour in 2007. About 5.6% of Canadians admitted to driving when they thought they were over the legal limit in the past 12 months. This is a slight increase compared to 2008 (5.2%) but does confirm the considerable drop from 8.2% in 2007.

“In the 2008 Road Safety Monitor on drinking and driving, it was suggested that the drop in 2008 may be partly due to the recent passage of Bill C-2 and the media attention the amendment had received.”, explains TIRF research scientist Ward Vanlaar. “In light of this possible explanation, a small increase from 2008 to 2009 is not surprising given that the effect of legislation can dissipate over time after its introduction.”

According to official statistics, in 2007, 863 Canadians were killed in a traffic crash involving a drinking driver. This represents an increase since 2004. However there have been steady declines, from 1,296 in 1995 to 815 in 2004.

One hypothesis is that these results in combination with the decreased number of fatalities suggest the number of people who are drinking and driving at higher levels of alcohol consumption is decreasing. Further monitoring of this pattern will help provide a better understanding of the possible trend.

“It is evident that much of the substantial decrease in fatalities through to 2004 occurred during the 1990s,” says Vanlaar. “While the recent data would suggest that progress has halted, the 2007 data regarding a decrease in those persons who reported driving when they thought they were over the legal limit may be indicative of a new downward trend. More data will have to be collected to further monitor this.”

The poll also revealed that drinking and driving continues to be ranked by the public as the most important concern of all road safety issues. As in previous years, Vanlaar says he’s not surprised by these results.

“Data in the early 2000s indicate that the progress we experienced during the 1990s has halted.” says Vanlaar. “This combined with the number of Canadians who continue to be affected by the financial, physical, and emotional consequences of these crashes means that a high level of concern is warranted.”

Drinking drivers are not the only ones who continue to put themselves at risk as 5.1% of those polled (1.7 million people) admitted to riding with a drinking driver in the last month. Some 6.6% of respondents (2.2 million people) indicated that they had been a passenger in a motor vehicle driven by someone who has been drinking on two or more such occasions.

“These results do not differ considerably from last year’s results.” says Vanlaar, “However, passengers should remember that even when blood alcohol concentrations are low, the risk of crashing substantially increases.” Canadians were also asked about different countermeasures to combat drinking and driving. Results show that Canadians continue to show support for various technologies, programs, and penalties for those who drink and drive.

For the second year in a row, the poll included a closer examination of regional drinking and driving attitudes and behaviours. Both the regional and national reports are available on TIRF’s website, (

About the poll:

These results are based on the Road Safety Monitor (RSM), an annual public opinion poll developed and conducted by TIRF. A total of 1,200 Canadians completed the poll. Results can be considered accurate within plus or minus 2.9%, 19 times out of 20. Financial support for this report and other reports in The Road Safety Monitor series comes from Transport Canada, the Brewers Association of Canada and the Canadian Trucking Alliance. For the first time, half of all respondents were contacted by phone and the o ther half on-line as part of a gradual transition to a complete online survey.

About TIRF:

Established in 1964, TIRF’s mission is to reduce traffic-related deaths and injuries. As a national, independent, charitable road safety institute — TIRF designs, promotes, and implements effective programs and policies, based on sound research. TIRF is a registered charity and depends on grants, contracts, and donations to provide services for the public. Visit us online at
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For more information, please contact:

Sara Oglestone
Manager, Marketing and Communications
613-851-8357 (cell) 613-238-5235 (office)
1-877-238-5235 (toll-free)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Rubber-necking believed to be cause of 2nd Gardiner crash

I caught this little story while on vacation. Now I won't usually 'work' while on vacation, but this is something that I couldn't resist talking about.

Original Article, Toronto Star, Tuesday December 22, 2009.

"A speeding car that flipped in the westbound lanes of the Gardiner Expressway early Sunday may have caused a second accident in the opposite direction minutes later.

The downtown highway was snarled with two accidents around 3 a.m. after the first vehicle rolled over into outer ditch.

Police believe that a taxi travelling eastbound may have been rubber-necking when it crashed into the guardrails shortly afterwards.

Only minor injuries were reported from both crashes."

I've seen this many times while investigating collisions. As someone standing on the side of the road you can see it coming. This is a collision of pure ignorance. Ignorance for other drivers, for yourself and for the emergency workers that have to respond to your collision, because what you were driving past was more important than where you were driving.

You can exchange ignorance with whatever word you would choose, but it fits. You are driving in a state of ignorance, "lack of knowledge, education or awareness" (Meriam Webster OnLine Dictionary).

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Toronto Cyclists Top 10 Peeves about Cycling in Toronto.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked Toronto via Twitter and Facebook, "Hey Toronto Cyclists. What's your biggest pet peeve about cycling in Toronto? Let me know. I'll be writing about it."

This one came about after the drivers top 10 pet peeves after a lot of cyclists wanted their voices heard. Well, here is the writing about it and the results. Some great responses and really diverse!

Here are honourable mentions that didn't make the top ten. Drivers who don't let you change lanes, drivers who stop too close to you and my favourite...'drivers who wait for pedestrians when turning right and don't leave room to go straight ahead'. More on that gets a special section for itself.

# 10 - SUV's.
I'm no really sure why cyclists don't like SUV's. Could be the carbon footprint, the size or make. Either way, I think that the dislike should be for poor driver behaviours, not the vehicles.

# 9 - No helmets.
One of my favourite answers. Other cyclists who don't wear helmets. Sure, as the argument goes, "A helmet won't save your life in all crashes." But what about the falls, the bumps and the crashes that it will save your life? Pretty small piece of safety equipment that can be the difference between life and death.

# 8 - Other cyclists running reds, makes us all look bad.
Not only does it make the good cyclists look bad, but it also confuses drivers. It's part of predictability which leads to better understanding/communication and respect.

# 7 - Not being seen.
This is a shared complaint for cyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists. Not being seen is a big deal. Drivers need to be more aware, alert and cognizant of vulnerable road users. Having said that, make sure you are doing everything you can to be see. Bright, reflective clothing, a light, reflectors, a bell, a whistle, not cutting in between cars...these can all help.

# 6 - Dooring.
Drivers, do you open your doors in front of cars? Then why do it in front of cyclists? You can't just rely on mirrors to see what's coming from behind need to check over your shoulder to get the big picture.

# 5 - Drivers who don't get Road Sharing
Fully agree with this one. Cyclists are vehicles and have the same rights to the roadway as such. Because they are slower moving they are to stay to the right, but where situations dictate...cyclists can block a lane for their safety. This also has to do with passing. Drivers should pass cyclists giving them as much space as possible.

# 4 - Pedestrian Actions.
Pedestrians have to consider their safety and the safety of cyclists. Stepping out from between parked cars or onto roadways without looking is a recipe for disaster for both road users.
#3 - Drivers who right turn without signalling.
Drivers failing to signal was number one on their list and here it is in the top 3 here. Evidence again that this is a problem.

# 2 - Vehicle's parked in bike lanes.
No surprise here at all. The bike lanes are not a place to allow delivery vehicles or cars to park for convenience. They are to allow a safety zone for cyclists to travel.

# 1 - Infrastructure.
By a land slide! Lots of responses for this in many forms from bike lanes that lead no where, to lanes that aren't cleared of leaves and snow along with not enough bike lanes and poor road maintenance and street car tracks.

So that's the way you responded. Watch for another question coming soon. In the meantime, here is a couple of my thoughts.

Why obeying the rules of the road are so important.
One of cyclists concerns that I hear throughout the year is drivers who don't pay them any respect. I agree that there is a problem with this. But, respect is earned not demanded. One way that drivers have said that cyclists can earn that respect is to follow the same rules that apply to them. No wrong way on one way streets, no stop sign running, stop for red lights and use hand signals. Cyclists who do these, and there are many, are more predictable and are communicating. Those riders are easy to respect because their actions are safer and don't leave drivers wondering.

As for, "Drivers who wait for pedestrians when turning right and don't leave room to go straight ahead."
I'll take blame for this because I encourage drivers to do just that...when turning, move to the right to keep cyclists from passing on the right. Force cyclists to pass on the left. Passing on the right is just not a safe or smart move. Drivers should never have to worry about a cyclist passing them on the right and by closing that space, they are actually protecting themselves, and the cyclist.
Cyclists even have a great option here...stop, get off your bike, go up on the sidewalk, walk it across the street and then return to the road and ride on! No having to pass on the left, no waiting for the car to turn and you may even get the chance to make the driver wait for you.

Ride safe, ride aware, ride co-operative.

Motorist Killed as Car Hits Bus

Article re-posted from 2009.12.15

A 29-year-old motorist who died in an overnight collision had disagreed with her boyfriend over whether to take a cab home from a bar, police said.

He decided to call a taxi, but she wanted to drive.

Around 1:20 a.m., as she headed west on Wilson Ave., the woman slammed her silver Volkswagen into the back of a parked TTC bus.

The bus was empty and had broken down. The driver had parked in the curb lane, turned on the hazard lights and left to get help.

The victim's boyfriend was one of the first people to come across the scene. At first, he though the woman was not badly injured, as her only injuries appeared to be a few cuts and bruises.

What he couldn't see, however, was that she had suffered severe internal injuries. By the time paramedics arrived, she had no vital signs.

"The organs can only take so much — it doesn't take much to rupture your arteries," said Toronto Police Const. Hugh Smith. "She never made it to the hospital."

Police are waiting on a toxicology report to determine if alcohol may have been a factor in the collision.

The woman wasn't wearing a seatbelt.

Her name has not been released, as police are still notifying her family.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Anonymity of Driving

The one thing that our metal boxes provide us is pure anonymity. Once we close the door on the outside world, turn on our radios and start the engine, no one really knows who we are.

Sure, some people may emboss the identity that they want the outside world to know about them with a clever license plate name or moniker that says something about them. Some people will drive a vehicle that has a corporate name or business identity, but for the most part, the driver remains hidden behind steel, glass and plastic.

Maybe thats why so many people drive in a world that the only person that matters is them. The only place that matters is where they are and the only time that matters is their here and now. Those are the people that cut you off, speed with reckless abandon, blow through red lights, follow too close and any number of untold risks to your life and mine.

Most professional and courteous drivers don’t care who knows them or knows who they are once they are inside their steel cocoons. They drive in a cooperative and safe manner because it is the smarter and better thing to do for all of us.

Many companies have their corporate vehicles tagged with GPS and AVLS tracking systems, while others ask, “How’s my driving? Call 1800.....”. I have never seen any publications that show how effective this is as a deterrent for their companies drivers to operate in, but I believe that if you were one of those drivers and you don’t want any attention of this type brought to you, you’d drive pretty decent.

So what about the rest of us? Wouldn’t it be interesting if instead of a small piece of plastic for our wallets, the Ministry of Transportation gave us a magnetic card that we had to attach to the door of our cars. No more hiding in anonymity, no more nameless actions; just you your name and your behaviour out there for all to see and know. Go one step further...convicted of Impaired Driving, Over 80, Dangerous Driving, Operating without Insurance, Suspended Driving, etc...A scarlet letter to show how much of a danger to the pucblic you are so that we can all take greater care and awareness around you.

Would you still be cutting cars off in an attempt to move the precious spot or two ahead in the cue? Would you still speed through a neighbourhood full of children or go through the red lights? Probably not.

So, for the sake of safety and cooperation, drive like you are fully identifiable, drive like your name is on the side of your vehicle. Drive safe, be alert and be aware.

Road safety is every one’s responsibility. Do your part.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Winter Driving - Part I

Well, we made it though November without snow. (As far as I'm concerned that is near perfect...add 20 degrees to the temperature and I'll be much happier.)

Then came December 1st and my drive to work started by clearing the car of snow...yes, the entire car, not just a 6x6 section of windshield...we'll talk later about that.

So, since we won't be escaping winter driving forever we should start talking about it. Thanks to PC Hugh Smith, here is the beginning of our Winter Driving Series.

Winter driving requires one's full attention and concentration.
Proper seating position, including the proper wearing of the seat belt, is a paramount consideration. If the seating position is not correct, all other aspects of safe driving will be compromised.

Smooth inputs on the gas pedal, brake pedal and steering wheel are also a must. "Ease and squeeze" both gas and brake pedal as opposed to jumping on them. A 9 and 3 hand position on the steering wheel invites nice controlled and fluid steering inputs. There is a tendency among drivers to hold the wheel towards the 12 o'clock position and with one hand only. This promotes over steering of the vehicle, which is the last thing you need on a slippery snow covered surface.

A minimum following distance of 3 to 4 seconds is recommended in ideal weather situations. As the weather turns, you require more and more of a following distance. This is where ones, emotional control and good judgement come into play. Driving talent alone is often not enough.

Driving attitude is probably the hardest component to change in winter vehicle operation, as it requires a change in habit. Given a road with a posted speed of 60 km/h, some drivers operate their vehicle up to speeds of 80km/h under good conditions. Add fresh falling snow you may lose as much as 25% in traction or vehicle control requiring your speed to drop in relation to 60 km/h.

Your field of vision and eye lead may now be reduced by as much as 20%, lowering your speed now to about 50km/h.

Incorporating your speed reduction with a greater following distance would be hard for most drivers to maintain due to their resistance to change.

All driving must be planned out. In order to plan, a driver must be able to see far enough ahead and to each side, so one is not suddenly surprised by something. Don't look immediately ahead of the vehicle. Try to get your eyes scanning towards the horizon. Look and steer where you want to go next. Keep the eyes moving, always looking for the space you plan on occupying next.


Ice forms at 3 specific areas and drivers should be mindful of these:

- On bridges caused by the double air surfaces and the lack of ground heating and under bridges in the shaded area of the road on sunny days.

- On the roadway immediately approaching and up to a controlled intersection caused by vehicles sliding to a stop and spinning their wheels under acceleration attempting to move away from the intersection.

- Where roads are super elevated, the ploughed snow often melts during the day and runs in a small river from top to bottom across the entire roadway. This wet surface can freeze overnight and cause an ice patch across the road in the corners.

Many of our own personal vehicles are equipped with anti-lock braking systems (A.B.S.). This is a computerized aid, which eliminates wheel lock-up. It allows for some steering in an emergency stop situation, even on very slippery surfaces. However, few of us have a great understanding of this marvelous piece of equipment.
Contrary to popular belief, A.B.S. will not always stop you in a shorter distance than a conventional braking system. Utilizing the threshold braking technique, which is maximum braking force before wheel lock up, or A.B.S. is activated, may stop you in a shorter distance.
With proper planning by looking far enough ahead of the vehicle, one should next to never have to rely on this system of braking.

Remember, space is your friend. Always drive with a space cushion for yourself as well as for all the other vehicles you encounter along your route. Always drive with an "out" in mind, in other words, let’s try and be a bit more humble in our vehicle operation.