British Columbia traffic deaths could be cut in half, study says

February 28, 2013

A study by a Simon Fraser University researcher shows British Columbia has much higher traffic death rates than most northern European countries. Comparisons to the safest country, the Netherlands, suggest B.C. could reduce the number of traffic deaths by more than 200 per year.

It also found that fatality and injury risks varied by travel mode.

"Many studies have shown that overall, considering both potential physical activity benefits and injury risks, cycling and walking are on the whole very healthy travel activities," says SFU health sciences assistant professor Meghan Winters, senior author of the study published in the .

However, the study, Exposure-based Injury Rates of Travel in British Columbia, confirmed using B.C. data that amongst travel modes, cyclists and pedestrians do indeed carry higher injury risk than drivers. It also demonstrated that fatality risks are far lower in other countries, indicating that are possible.

"The results fit with the common perception that cyclists and pedestrians are vulnerable road users. However, we were surprised to see how similar the risks were between these two modes," says Winters.

"Another surprise was comparing fatality risk for these modes to public transit and motorcycling (for which we had to look at research from the U.S. since B.C. data was not sufficient). In the U.S., where pedestrian, cyclist, and car exposure-based were similar, bus travel had 20 times less risk than other modes, and motorcycle travel 25 times higher risk."

According to the study, injury risks vary by mode of transportation – car, bicycle, and walking – and understanding the differences is important for prevention. It adds that since these travel modes are not used equally, injury rates calculated with a population denominator may reflect differences in burden, not differences in risk, between modes.

Exposure-based denominators take into account factors like the proportion of trips or the distances travelled by each mode. Examples:

  • Motor-vehicle occupants had the lowest fatality rates using exposure-based denominators (9.6 per 100 million person-trips and .97 per 100 million kms)
  • Cyclists and pedestrians had similar fatality rates using trip denominators (13.8 vs 14.7 per 100 million person-trips, respectively), but cyclists had a lower rate using distance denominator (2.60 vs 7.37 per 100 million kms)
Winters believes more data about travel behaviour in Canada is needed. Creating a national trip diary could provide researchers with data to help reduce fatalities.

"Since there is no national data collection on travel for travel behaviour data, it is not possible to make comparisons, either within Canada or internationally, that would allow us to identify safer jurisdictions and learn about traffic safety measures that could be adopted here," says Winters.

Explore further: Cycling safer than driving for young people, study finds

Related Stories

Cycling safer than driving for young people, study finds

December 5, 2012
Researchers from UCL have found that cycling is safer than driving for young males, with 17 to 20 year old drivers facing almost five times greater risk per hour than cyclists of the same age.

Males hit by vehicles twice as likely to die, study finds

December 11, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Worldwide, more than 1.2 million traffic fatalities occur yearly, and the lives of pedestrians account for a third of those lost. In the United States, pedestrians make up 12 percent of deaths from traffic ...

Walking and cycling have Increased in U.S. but remain at low levels

May 6, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- A new study led by a Rutgers researcher and published in the American Journal of Public Health reports a significant increase in walking between 2001 and 2009 in the United States, but only slight growth ...

Bicycle infrastructure can reduce risk of cycling injuries by half

October 18, 2012
Certain types of routes carry much lower risk of injury for cyclists, according to a new University of British Columbia study on the eve of Vancouver's Bike to Work Week.

Recommended for you

'Man flu' may be real

December 11, 2017
The much-debated phenomenon of "man flu" may have some basis in fact, suggests an article published in the Christmas issue of The BMJ.

Full moon linked to increased risk of fatal motorcycle crashes

December 11, 2017
The full moon is associated with an increased risk of fatal motorcycle crashes in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, finds a study in the Christmas issue of The BMJ.

Social media trends can predict tipping points in vaccine scares

December 11, 2017
Analyzing trends on Twitter and Google can help predict vaccine scares that can lead to disease outbreaks, according to a study from the University of Waterloo.

Study suggests being proud may protect against falls in older people

December 11, 2017
Contrary to the old saying "pride comes before a fall", the opposite appears to be true, according to a study published in the Christmas issue of The BMJ.

Peppa Pig may encourage inappropriate use of primary care services

December 11, 2017
Exposure to the children's television series Peppa Pig may be contributing to unrealistic expectations of primary care and encouraging inappropriate use of services, suggests a doctor in the Christmas issue of The BMJ.

Women's sexual orientation linked to (un)happiness about birth

December 11, 2017
Unhappiness about a pregnancy or birth has been associated with negative health outcomes for mothers and babies. Yet, unhappiness about a pregnancy or birth has been understudied, particularly among sexual minority (non-heterosexual) ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.