The Fatal Collision Review Committee (FCRC), established in 2017 in Ottawa, is a multi-agency initiative which operates under the mandate of the Coroner’s Act and is comprised of members representing the Ottawa Police Service, the City of Ottawa Traffic Services, Ottawa Public Health, the Eastern Regional Supervising Coroner’s Office, and others as required.
The data presented in this report are from 84 fatal collisions, resulting in 92 deaths, that occurred on City of Ottawa roadways and private property from 2017 to 2020. An overview of key findings by collisions, road user deaths and drivers involved in the collisions, were compared to various population data to help place findings from the analysis of fatal crashes in context.
There were 84 fatal collisions reviewed by the FCRC between 2017 and 2020. More than half (52%) involved only motor vehicle occupants (i.e., drivers or passengers) whereas the remaining 48% involved vulnerable road users. In particular, approximately one-quarter (26%) involved pedestrians and 13% motorcyclists. Cyclists were involved in 5% of fatal collisions and 4% involved e-bike riders. A comparison of fatal collisions to reportable collisions revealed vulnerable road users were over-represented in fatal crashes. In other words, vulnerable road users are more likely to be killed in crashes. This is due to several factors including the lack of the protective exterior of a vehicle and the fact the human body is less likely to survive collisions involving higher speeds. The youngest and oldest road users are also more likely to be killed in these collisions.
When looking at where collisions are occurring geographically, the area inside the Greenbelt shows the percentage of fatal collisions being lower than expected based on the share of reportable collisions in those areas, while outside the Greenbelt, the percentage of fatal collisions is higher. The rural area has the highest percentage of fatal collisions, representing over one third (37%) of all fatal collisions and only 9% of all reportable collisions.
Looking at the time of year fatal collisions occurred, the warmer months between April and September saw an over-representation of fatal collisions when compared to reportable collisions, with the exception of August. There were also more than expected fatal collisions occurring on Friday, Sunday and Mondays and during the evening (19:00–22:59) and over-night (23:00–5:59) periods.
Road user deaths
There were 92 road users killed in the 84 collisions reviewed by the FCRC. Persons aged 55 years and older were over-represented when compared to persons involved in reportable collisions as well as Ottawa population estimates. Similarly, older age vulnerable road users were also more likely to be killed. However, an examination of motor vehicle occupants killed in road crashes indicated younger persons aged 16–19 years represented a larger proportion of fatalities (10%) as compared to the Ottawa population (5%).
Males were over-represented as fatalities when compared to those involved in reportable collisions and the Ottawa population, and this finding is generally consistent with national data sources. Slightly more than two-thirds (68%) of the 92 road users killed in fatal crashes were male. In comparison, males accounted for 57% of those involved in reportable collisions and 49% of the Ottawa population.
Drivers in fatal collisions
A total of 128 drivers were involved in the 84 fatal collisions reviewed by the FCRC. Persons operating vehicles that did not require a licence to operate it (i.e., cyclists, e-bike riders, construction equipment operators) at the time of the collision were excluded from analysis.
The age distribution of drivers showed drivers aged 25–34 and 45–54 were over-represented in fatal collisions as compared to licenced driver populations. This may be due to a combination of factors including greater risk-taking and higher levels of driver exposure. Comparing the age distribution of drivers involved in fatal collisions to reportable collisions revealed those aged 45 years and older were over-represented as well and this may again be due to higher levels of exposure and perhaps some over-confidence in driving ability.
Almost three-quarters (70%) of drivers involved in fatal collisions were male. The age groups with the largest percentage of male drivers involved in fatal collisions were those aged 16–34 (85% male) and 75 years and older (88% male). In addition, 91% of motorcyclists involved in fatal collisions were male. Males accounted for 89% of drivers with a motorcycle licence.
Driver licence and status
Comparing the licence type held by the drivers involved in fatal collisions, those holding higher class licences that allows the holders to drive larger vehicles were over-represented with 16% holding A, B, C, D, E and/or F licences vs. 4% of the licenced driver population in the province. Novice drivers (G1 and G2) were under-represented as drivers in fatal collisions when compared to the licenced driver population (9% vs. 14%).
The number of previous convictions for traffic related offences either under the Highway Traffic Act (e.g., speeding, red light running, etc.) or Criminal Code of Canada (e.g., drinking and driving, dangerous driving, fail to remain, etc.) for each driver was considered as part of the FCRC review of each collision. 19% of drivers had 10 or more previous convictions.
The speed travelled by 109 of the 128 drivers was determined for the collisions reviewed by the FCRC. Speeding is defined as a driver travelling over the speed limit of the roadway. Of the 109 drivers for whom speed information was available in the investigation, 45% were engaged in speeding. Of the 49 speeding drivers, 31 were travelling at 20 km/h or more over the speed limit and were deemed to be engaged in excessive speeding, with five of the drivers travelling at 80 km/h or more over the speed limit. The highest driver speed was 135 km/h over the speed limit of the roadway.
Alcohol and/or drug use
A third of the fatal collisions reviewed by the FCRC involved one or more road users with a drug or alcohol level in their system felt to be compatible with impairment.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, cannabis) was considered a factor in 19% of fatal collisions, cocaine (and its breakdown products) was a factor in seventeen (17) or 20% of fatal collisions and ethanol (alcohol) was a factor in sixteen (16) or 19% collisions. Impaired road users often had more than one of these substances present at the time of collision.
The mandate of the FCRC is to promptly facilitate the sharing of information between the members following fatal collisions to better understand the contributing factors to those collisions and to determine if any recommendations for engineering modifications, enforcement campaigns or education initiatives can be made to prevent future deaths.
Between 2017 and 2020, the FCRC made 13 engineering recommendations and three education recommendations related to individual collisions. Enforcement was undertaken as needed to address contributing factors associated with the collisions. The 13 engineering recommendations were site specific and consisted of review and/or implementation of signage, signal timing, or temporary traffic calming measures as well as, in three cases, geometric modifications through the City’s existing road safety programs. The education recommendations included one site specific outreach activity related to pedestrian safety as well as two broader initiatives for impaired driving and pedestrian safety.
Systemic recommendations, arising from an analysis of the data as a whole, are the following:
To the City of Ottawa
- The City should develop a comprehensive strategy to reduce speeds on Ottawa roads.
- The City should conduct an in-depth review of collisions involving road users aged 55 years and older.
To the Ottawa Police Service
- Ottawa Police Service should continue targeted enforcement for peak crash periods to help curb risk-taking associated with fatal collisions.
To the Ottawa Police Services and the City of Ottawa
- Ottawa Police Service and Safer Roads Ottawa should work collaboratively to increase enforcement and education about the risks associated with alcohol and drug-impaired driving.
To the Ministry of Transportation Ontario (MTO)
- MTO should ensure enhanced data collection and analysis of e-bike fatalities and collisions in Ottawa and Ontario to increase understanding of risks and identify appropriate preventive measures.
To the Fatal Collision Review Committee and the Ministry of Transportation Ontario
- FCRC and MTO should work collaboratively to conduct further comparisons of the prevalence of drivers in fatal collisions with prior convictions and suspensions to drivers in the general population.