Winter storm papers Collisions, Casualties, and Costs: Weathering the elements on Canadian Roads Dr. Jean Andrey Department of Geography, University of Waterloo Brian Mills Adaptation and Impacts Research Group, MSC, Environment Canada with contributions from student research assistants: Courtney Jermyn, Brenda Jones, Mike Leahy, Ken McInnis, David Tammadge, Dan Unrau, Emily Vandermolen, Jessica Vandermolen, Pete Whittington July 3, 2003 ICLR Research Paper Series – No. 33
The year 1973 marked a turning point for road safety in Canada. In that year, 6706 people died from road crashes. Since that time, advances in engineering, education, enforcement and medicine have reduced the annual death toll to less than 3000 people per year, despite increases in both population and mobility (Transport Canada 1997; 2003). Nevertheless, road crashes continue to be a serious societal problem—draining over $10 billion from the Canadian health care system each year, according to the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (2000). Indeed, in the 17-year time period (1984-2000) considered in this study, 2.9 million casualty collisions occurred, resulting in 61,636 fatalities and 4.2 million injured persons (Transport Canada 1997; 2002).
Inclement weather is one of a number of risk factors that affect the frequency and severity of road collisions. Weather reduces road friction, impairs visibility and makes vehicle handling more difficult, all of which translate into elevated risk levels. Using aggregate risk and cost data, a first estimate of weather-related collision costs for Canada was calculated at approximately $1.1 billion per year (Andrey et al. 2001). In the current study, we develop a more detailed methodology for estimating costs, using the national accident database (TRAID3) and cost estimates for injuries of different severities from the literature. We then apply this methodology to four Canadian cities—Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, and Edmonton. Further analysis will extend this to urban areas throughout Canada. Finally, as a complementary analysis, we examine the costs of weather-related road collisions in Winnipeg, using claim information obtained from Manitoba Public Insurance.
While aggregate costs are important for establishing the magnitude of the problem, it is also important to understand temporal variations in weather-related crash risk—both in the long term, as a commentary on the adequacy of society’s collective response, and within a year or season to identify possible interactions between weather and other risk factors, such as traffic volume. In the current study, we estimate weather-related risk on an annual basis from 1984 to 1993, based on data for the four cities mentioned above. We also conduct an analysis of Ottawa crash data from 1990 to 1998 in order to explore the importance of season, day of week and time of day on weather-related risk.
Driver and institutional response to inclement weather is one area of research that has been given limited attention. With support from the current study, a Master’s thesis is being completed on driver responses to inclement weather using traffic loop data on volume, driving speed and vehicle spacing for the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto. In addition, the implications of weather warnings for collision and injury risk in Ottawa, and road-salt usage for collision and injury risk in Hamilton—are considered in two pilot studies on the value of weather information.
In summary, based on Andrey et al. (2001) and discussions with ICLR, it was decided to pursue additional research that would improve our understanding of: • the costs of weather-related casualty collisions in Canada • temporal variations in weather-related driving risks, and • the impact of weather information and winter road maintenance on collision risk.