photo: FranckReporter/iStock

Life in the Fast Lane: Alberta Road Safety Risks

By AMA Staff

It happens far too often. You’re driving down the street when suddenly another motorist cuts you off or zooms past you way above the speed limit. Shaking your head in disapproval, you say to yourself, “If only other people drove as well as me.” The trouble is we all think like that.

Recently, the AMA Foundation for Traffic Safety asked Albertans about driving behaviours that they believe threaten their personal safety on the road. Few respondents saw themselves as part of the problem. Fully 65 percent said they were more careful on the road than other drivers. Another one-third said they’re equally as careful as others.

The AMA Foundation for Traffic Safety funds research into the causes of collisions and ways to improve road safety for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. Its latest study suggests that while most Albertans agree with the rules of the road, many don’t follow them. More than 82 percent of respondents said speeding is “never acceptable” on residential roads, yet 25 percent admitted to exceeding the limit. Similarly, 95 percent said speeding is unacceptable in school zones, but 29 percent do it anyway.

The numbers are equally worrying for highways, where only 18 percent of drivers said speeding is not acceptable—and 91 percent confessed to doing it.

How AMA teaches safe-driving skills for life

“All of us need to make the connection that our goal of a safe drive is directly tied to how we, and others like us, contribute to it,” says Jeff Kasbrick, vice-president of government and stakeholder relations for AMA. “With speeding, this study paints an unfortunate picture of many declaring, ‘Do as I say, not as I do.’

Somewhat positively, however, Albertans appear to trust that their fellow drivers won’t get behind the wheel while impaired. Nearly half of those surveyed saw drinking and driving as a slight threat to their personal safety, or of no threat at all (34 and 15 percent, respectively). More than half were unconcerned about people using cannabis before operating a vehicle: It was a slight threat for 31 percent, while 23 percent were not threatened.

“Though the average Albertan doesn’t believe they’re at risk of impaired driving on Alberta roads, we can’t become complacent,” Kasbrick says. “Impaired driving, whether alcohol- or drug-related, is still a far too present reality on Alberta roads. It’ll continue to be a very serious traffic issue, especially with the legalization of cannabis only months away.”

And yet, overall, Albertans feel road safety has worsened over the past three years. Almost three-quarters of respondents said distracted driving is more of a problem—a sobering reality after years of enforcement and awareness campaigns meant to educate motorists about the dangers of distracted driving. Likewise, nearly half believed road rage to be worse, and 57 percent said that aggressive driving, such as tailgating and honking, has become more of a problem.

How the zipper merge helps improve traffic flow

Public education will continue to play a key role in making our roads safer. The easiest thing motorists can do to help is to change their own actions. “We think of driving as a mundane task but it’s one of the riskiest activities that we engage in and we do it daily,” Kasbrick says. “We all have the ability to control our behaviour for the better when we’re behind the wheel.”

To donate to the AMA Foundation for Traffic Safety, click here.