Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks to media at a press conference in Whitehorse on March 30. Hanley commented May 14 on a government report on motor vehicles that found the Yukon has the second-highest rate of deaths and injuries in the country. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Yukon has second-highest rate of death and injury on roads in Canada, report says

CMO releases road report

A government report on motor vehicles finds that the Yukon has the second-highest rate of deaths and injuries in the country, with distracted driving as the most common cause of collisions.

The report, titled Motor Vehicles in Yukon: a Public Health Perspective, was released by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMO) on May 13.

Dr. Brendan Hanley, the CMO, spoke with the News on May 14 about the findings.

He said he wanted to put together a summary report containing various characteristics on motor vehicle collisions as well as the effects and impacts on health and the health-care system.

The report is based on information from the motor vehicle collisions database, emergency rooms, hospitalization data, the Yukon Coroner’s Office and the 2018 Yukon Roadside Survey, carried out in the summer of 2018.

Combining all sources, this gave the government information going as far back as 2011.

Hanley laid out some of the findings he found most striking.

The first on his list was the leading cause of crashes — distracted driving. He added that when looking and linking all the sources, it revealed there was a correlation between distracted driving and severe injury outcomes.

Other causes for collisions were driving too fast for the weather conditions, bad road conditions and alcohol. Cannabis use was also linked to collisions.

“I don’t think any of this was surprising,” Hanley said.

He said the data should help the government track how the motor vehicle collision numbers have changed over the years when it comes to implementing interventions.

He said it is known that the Yukon has a high rate of serious injury related to road collisions, and has for a number of years.

Statistics comparing each province and territory were included in the report for 2016. The Yukon had the second-highest rate of road fatalities and injuries. For every 100,000 people, Yukon had 10.5 deaths and 643.3 injuries. Only Saskatchewan had a higher rate of deaths, with 10.9, and Manitoba had a higher rate for injuries, with 951.8.

Strategies to mitigate the high rate of collisions include driver education, an updated graduated licensing program and using technology for speed reduction.

“That’s what I think we can achieve using this kind of report,” Hanley said.

The report listed seven recommendations.

The first is to start injury surveillance. It will involve working with partners to better data collection in the territory, the idea is to better assess the problem of collisions and injury while improving the evaluation of policies and programs.

The next one is to come up with a road safety strategy for the territory.

The third is to use updated technology to improve road enforcement and encourage safer driving. According to the report, this could include photo radar, red light cameras, turn cameras and speed-reader boards.

Number four is to increase the fines for aggressive driving and update drivers’ education and the graduated licensing program.

Fifth on the list is to evaluate the results of the Yukon’s Information and Motivation for Positive Action and Choices Today program for drivers who lost their licence for drunk driving.

The sixth is to look into “safe alternative driving services” and overnight parking.

The last calls for more focus on road safety education.

Of the seven, he wants to see the recommendation of a road safety strategy implemented.

“That’s the one I really want people to look at and think about,” Hanley said.

He thinks this is good because it will help on the enforcement and regulation end of road safety.

He pointed out the government is looking at updating the Motor Vehicles Act and that some of this information should help in that process.

Contact Gord Fortin at gord.fortin@yukon-news.com

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