Victoria Day is just around the corner, the unofficial kickoff to the summer vacation season when Canadians take to the roads - in various vehicles - to visit family and escape to enjoyable destinations. With more drivers and passengers on the streets, there's an increased risk for accidents, which is why the Ontario Provincial Police are sounding the alarm with an uptick in motorcycle travel anticipated.
Tragically, 2017 was a deadly year for motorcycling in Ontario, as 48 individuals lost their lives on OPP-patrolled highways and backroads, according to figures maintained by the OPP. The highest number of motorcycle-related fatalities since 2008, approximately half - 22 - were caused by the other motorist(s) involved. Some of the leading contributors to these crashes included speeding, failure to yield and drug or alcohol use.
OPP Commissioner Vince Hawkes noted the high number of deadly motorcyclist crashes contributed to what was already a harrowing year for Ontario road safety.
"Last year, the OPP saw the highest number of road fatalities in five years, with 343 people losing their lives," Hawkes explained. "Regardless of where your travels take you this week and over the weekend, please know that driving safely means driving the number of road deaths way down."
Hawkes added that the OPP will do what it can to patrol the province's roads to protect travelers' physical well-being, but safety is ultimately a personal responsibility.
Motorcycle deaths in Canada rising
Based on the most recent statistics available from Transport Canada, fatal motorcycle crashes have increased across Canada in recent years. In 2015, for example, 200 motorcyclists were killed in the country overall, up from 190 in 2014. During the previous year, 198 deadly motorcycle crashes nationally occurred, accounting for 10 percent of all traffic-related fatalities. Approximately 12 percent of all serious highway injuries in 2015 affected motorcyclists.
The OPP's motorcycle awareness campaign coincides with Canada Road Safety Week. Launched May 15 and concluding May 21 - Victoria Day - Canada Road Safety Week is a seven-day, national initiative that aims to make Canada the safest place in the world for highway and byway users. Also participating in the coast-to-coast safety initiative is the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.
Mario Harel, director and president of the CACP, indicated that road safety awareness is an ongoing effort because far too many people are dying due to poor driving behaviors.
"Despite the public's awareness of many of the risk factors related to road safety, motor vehicle accidents continue to take place in every single Canadian community across Canada," Harel warned. "First responders - police, firemen and paramedics - continue to bear witness to the tragic injuries and deaths that result from these collisions."
Harel further stated that perhaps the most heart-rending aspect to road-related deaths lies in the fact that they're almost always preventable.
'Take the D out of Driving'
Each Canada Road Safety Week has a theme, and the 2018 incarnation is "Take the 'D' out of Driving." The D is representative of risky behaviors or states of being that begin with this letter, including drunkenness, drug-impaired, drowsy, distracted and detached, meaning not wearing a seat belt.
Chuck Cox, CACP Traffic Safety Committee co-chair, stressed drivers must act responsibly, and those who don't will be appropriately flagged and reprimanded.
"Research shows that for a number of these risk factors, people perceive them to be a problem, yet will sometimes practice these bad behaviors anyway," Cox explained. "This must change."
The goal of road safety initiatives like the ones championed by the CACP and OPP is reducing serious injury and deadly accidents to as low a level as possible. Every year, roughly 2,000 people are killed and 165,000 injured while traveling on Canada's various thoroughfares, the CACP noted.