Collision injuries drop

Traffic collision injuries dropped by 15 per cent in 2009 in Red Deer, continuing a downward trend.

Traffic collision injuries dropped by 15 per cent in 2009 in Red Deer, continuing a downward trend.

According to the city’s 2009 Traffic Collision Report, released this week, 539 minor and major injuries were reported in 2009 from 636 in 2008 and 717 in 2007.

Between 2007 and 2008, the city saw an 11 per cent decrease in injuries.

“When we see a decrease in injuries of over 15 per cent, that’s significant. That’s fantastic,” said traffic engineer Rebecca Clark.

There were no road fatalities in 2009, compared to five in 2008 and three in 2007.

Annual traffic reports take about 10 months to prepare and include police statistics involving traffic investigations. The 2010 statistics won’t be available until late 2011 or early 2012.

The city also saw a slight decrease in the overall number of traffic collisions in 2009 despite city and regional population growth.

A total of 4,142 collisions were reported on public streets and public parking lots in the city, compared with 4,161 in 2008.

When parking lots were excluded, collisions on public roadways (intersections, roads and alleys) fell by 4.4 per cent compared with 2008.

“Almost a third of collisions happen in parking lots,” said Clark about the collisions that usually involve a driver backing into another vehicle.

Rear-end collisions remain the most common in the city at 24 per cent.

“Those are ones that are really easy to prevent if you’re watching the vehicle in front of you and keeping a safe distance, especially when roads conditions aren’t ideal.”

The city’s 2009-11 Traffic Safety Action Plan aims to reduce fatal and injury collision frequency and identifies eight safety issues — aggressive driving, impaired driving, intersections, driving in snow, seatbelt or restraint use, commercial vehicles, motorcycles, and incidents with pedestrians or cyclists.

Clark said improvements were made in every area except driving in snow, seatbelt use and pedestrians or cyclists.

When it comes to snow, Albertans don’t learn, she said.

“Quebec has gone as far as legislating snow tires. I think more people have to consider that in Alberta, even though it’s not legislation, and driving for road conditions. This is Alberta.

“Every year, it takes a month for people to figure out it’s winter.”

City RCMP Sgt. Bob Bell said there was only a minor increase in seatbelt tickets. About 90 per cent of drivers are buckling up.

“It used to be easy to be able to write a handful of seatbelt tickets. Now it’s a little more challenging,” Bell said.

And the RCMP will continue to focus on impaired drivers.

In 2009, 80 impaired drivers were involved in collisions compared with 71 in 2008. There were 18 injuries and no alcohol-related fatalities.

As part of the city’s traffic safety efforts, a pilot program using technology similar to blinds on traffic signal lights will be underway in the spring to reduce driver confusion at closely spaced intersections.

Red Deer has about five locations, like around the downtown Superstore and around 32nd Avenue and Gaetz, where motorists can see traffic lights both close by and further away. Through the technology, the distant traffic light would only become visible when drivers get close to it.

Clark said Edmonton and Calgary have used the technology for years.

“We feel it could be of benefit but we don’t want to put it in widespread. Sometimes people think the signal is malfunctioning. We want to make sure we’re not causing a problem with them.”