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Good Weather, More Accidents?

The numerous records set in Vancouver in 2010 included a record low—nine—for traffic fatalities, five of which were pedestrians.  This year, until the end of March, there were five fatalities, but then, by the end of June/beginning of July, the number had shot up to twelve, including eight pedestrians.

Contributing to this spike in 2011’s second quarter was a 10-day period coinciding with the beginning of summer when things went really haywire.  On Monday June 20, at around 6 pm, a southbound Toyota Corolla slammed into the back of a No. 10 Granville bus slowing down at the Nanton Avenue bus stop.  Of the four occupants of the car, two parents and their son and his wife, only the father survived, although he was seriously injured.  Witnesses reported seeing the southbound car weaving in and out of traffic before crashing into the decelerating bus.
Then, on Saturday June 25, in the early morning, a hit-and-run driver killed a 30-year-old female pedestrian near the intersection of East Hastings and Jackson Avenue.  In the next five days, two more pedestrians were hit: early on Sunday June 26, at Main and Hastings, a 52-year-old man, who died in hospital on Sunday July 3rd; on Wednesday June 29, at Commercial Drive and East First Avenue, also in the morning, a 76-year-old man, who sustained serious injuries.
Media reports suggest this spate of deadly/injury-causing crashes was an ‘unexpected blip’ especially for a time when daylight hours are at their maximum and road conditions their best. This certainly seems to make sense. The statistics on seasonal crash rates, however, consistently show otherwise. Previously on this topic, Road Rules has quoted Dr. Leonard Evans’ book, Traffic Safety, a 2004 analysis of North American traffic safety statistics: “The vast majority of fatal crashes occur on dry roads in daylight.  For every person killed…traveling in the dark while it is snowing, 87 are killed traveling in daylight under no adverse atmospheric conditions. … For the states with the most snow, fatalities per day are substantially lower in winter months than in summer months–the average daily rate for February being under half that for July and August.”
Less overall driving in unfavorable conditions isn’t the cause: “the number of fatal crashes for the same distance of travel is still less in the winter than in the summer for the states with the most snow.”  According to Dr. Evans, “people drive more slowly and hence more safely on snowy roads.”
All drivers need to be reminded of the particular challenges of summer driving: good visibility and road conditions can lull drivers into being less vigilant; distractions abound; and popular destinations make for a huge volume of traffic. All other road users need a similar reminder. Nice weather doesn’t relieve pedestrians or cyclists from their need to obey the applicable crossing rules and to keep a careful watch out for themselves. And gentle reminders aside, the police are warning that in an effort to stop this trend they will be ‘cracking down,’ taking “a balanced approach, not just [targeting] motor vehicles.

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