Research Papers

Trends in Fatally Injured Drivers and Pedestrians in Canada

Filename FINAL-PAPER-17.doc
Filesize 834 KB
Version 1
Date added June 10, 2012
Downloaded 4 times/fois
Category 2012 CMRSC XXII Banff
Tags Session 6C
Author/Auteur Steve Brown, Dan Mayhew, Robyn Robertson, Ward Vanlaar, Paul Boase

Abstract

Purpose: For almost four decades, the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) has collected and maintained annual data on fatally injured drivers and pedestrians, initially in seven provinces, and since 1987, in all provinces and territories. This Fatality Database contains information on the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of fatally injured drivers, and since 2000, information on drug use among fatality injured drivers. The purposes of this paper are to examine trends in alcohol and drug use among fatally injured drivers and alcohol use among fatally injured pedestrians in Canada from 1987 to 2009. This paper also discusses changes over time in driver characteristics, collision circumstances, and other related factors associated with fatal collisions. The overall results for Canada derived from the Fatality Database are also compared to data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) which is maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the United States, over the same time period.

Method: This examination of trends involved the analyses of data contained in the Fatality Database. This database includes information on drivers fatally injured on- and off-road from both coroners/medical examiners files and police collision reports. The presence and amount of alcohol and drugs in fatally injured drivers are derived from objective tests on body fluids - over 80% of driver fatalities are tested for alcohol and almost 50% are tested for drugs annually in Canada. Indicators of the alcohol-fatal crash problem in Canada that are examined include: 1) alcohol in fatally injured drivers; 2) alcohol in fatally injured pedestrians; and 3) alcohol involvement on the part of both surviving and fatally injured drivers in fatal crashes. Trends in drug involvement among fatally injured drivers are also reviewed in terms of: 1) the rate of testing for drug use among fatally injured drivers; and 2) the frequency of drug involvement among fatally injured drivers who are tested for drugs.

Results: Overall in Canada, between 1987 and 2009, there has been a decrease in the percentage of fatally injured drivers of highway vehicles who have tested positive for alcohol. Over the past decade, however, there has been little change in the percentage of fatally injured drivers testing positive and in 2009, 37.6% of these drivers had been drinking. Similar trends were observed for different driver groups with a few notable exceptions: since 2004, a general increase in the percentage of fatally injured drivers in single-vehicle collisions with positive BACs; and over the study period, virtually no change in the percentage of positive BACs among fatally injured drivers who did not use safety equipment. The results also showed that some driver groups were consistently more likely to have positive BACs, including fatally injured drivers who were: aged 20-25; males, driving a truck/van; in a single-vehicle collision; and not using safety equipment. Trends for the percentage of fatally injured drivers who had been drinking in Canada correspond closely with trends in the United States, particularly since 2004. In terms of fatally injured pedestrians, from 1987 to 2002, there was a general decrease in the percentage of fatally injured pedestrians who tested positive for alcohol. Over the past three years, however, there has been an upward trend in the percentage of pedestrians with positive BACs. This pattern of results was generally similar for fatally injured pedestrians in different age groups and genders. While there has been a general decline in the percentage of persons dying in collisions where alcohol was involved between 1995 and 2009, in the last four years, the trend has stabilized. There has, however, been a decrease in the absolute number of alcohol-involved fatalities from 1995 to 2009. From 2000 to 2006, there was an increase in the percentage of fatally injured drivers that were tested for the presence of drugs. In the past four years, the testing rate remained close to 60%. Among fatally injured tested drivers, there was a general increase in the percentage of those who tested positive for drugs until 2004. Since 2004, the percentage of fatally injured drivers testing positive for drugs has been in the 37-40% range.

Conclusions: Although gains have been achieved over the past 22 years in Canada, overall and for the various groups of fatally injured drivers, alcohol and drug use are still a significant problem on Canadian highways. This is especially the case because most of the improvements were realized before 1999. Importantly, the Fatality Database has proven to be a useful and essential tool in providing both current and historical data on the magnitude and characteristics of alcohol and drug use among fatally injured drivers in Canada. The maintenance of the Fatality Database is critical to monitor trends as well as to examine emerging and new road safety issues in the future.

Steve Brown, Dan Mayhew, Robyn Robertson, Ward Vanlaar, Paul Boase