The mandate of the Fatal Collision Review Committee (FCRC) is to facilitate the prompt sharing of information between its members immediately following fatal collisions to improve understanding about contributing factors in those collisions. Their role also includes identifying recommendations, if any, to strengthen enforcement campaigns, public education initiatives and roadway infrastructure to prevent future deaths. The scope of authority in each of these areas is described below.
Enforcement recommendations focus on strengthening the enforcement of rules of the road through traditional or automated methods. The objective is to increase driver compliance to reduce crash risk by discouraging risky behaviours such as speeding, impaired driving and distraction. The Ottawa Police Service (OPS) is responsible for delivering traditional enforcement initiatives recommended by the FCRC while the City of Ottawa is responsible for implementing automated enforcement measures.
Education recommendations are designed to encourage road users to make safe choices when using roadway infrastructure. The objective of educational initiatives is to increase understanding of how driver choices on the road can increase safety or create risk and negatively impact the outcome of interactions with other road users. Education campaigns can be targeted to address specific risky behaviours or specific locations or areas of the road network. Campaigns can also be more broad-based to reach a larger population of road users to increase knowledge and awareness. OPS, Ottawa Public Health and the City of Ottawa all contribute to implementing recommendations of this nature.
Engineering recommendations include those related to changing the physical infrastructure of the roadway. They can be site-specific or can include policy changes to influence how the roadway infrastructure is designed and built by the jurisdiction responsible for providing the infrastructure. Based on the scope of the FCRC, the City of Ottawa is responsible for implementing engineering recommendations arising from this committee.
Between 2017 and 2020, the FCRC made 13 engineering recommendations and three education recommendations based on the review of individual collisions. 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. The 13 engineering recommendations were site-specific and consisted of review and/or implementation of signage, signal timing changes, or temporary traffic calming measures. In three cases, geometric modifications through the City’s existing road safety programs were adopted. Enforcement was undertaken as needed to address contributing factors associated with the collisions.
The level of detail provided in this current summary of recommendations is intended to be very high-level. This is done to protect the privacy of individuals involved in specific collisions, and to ensure individuals cannot be identified in collisions included in this review.
Recommendations based on cumulative data
Based on a cumulative review of FCRC findings and a review of findings from this analysis of 84 fatal collisions in Ottawa, the following recommendations are put forward for discussion and consideration.
To the City of Ottawa
Develop a comprehensive strategy to reduce speeds on Ottawa roads. Speed is a significant factor in fatal collisions with just under half (45%) of the drivers for whom speed was determined, were travelling above the speed limit. Of concern, two-thirds of drivers who were speeding, were driving more than 20 km/h over the speed limit; slightly more than one-third had exceeded the limit by at least 40 km/h.
The City has traditionally set speed limits based on operating speeds rather than on speeds that will minimize the potential for fatal or serious injury based on the mix of vehicles, road users and protective infrastructure present. Updating the City’s Speed Zoning Policy to better align with the principles of a Safe Systems Approach will help set expectations related to speed.
Some design measures have been and are being implemented on some roads to reduce speeds in urban and residential areas. These measures include the use of various traffic calming measures. The increased use of automated speed enforcement should be further promoted and implemented on roads where speeding is pervasive. This technology is a more effective and cost-efficient tool to support traditional enforcement strategies.
Finally, initiatives to educate Ottawa road users about the risks associated with speed can help drivers make safer choices and shift the road safety culture. Key facts to share include: small increases in speed equal large increases in risk, higher speeds increase stopping distance and reduce reaction time, active transportation users are less likely to survive impacts by vehicles travelling speeds over 40 km/h.
- Conduct an in-depth review of collisions involving road users aged 55 years and older. This age cohort, whether they are motor vehicle drivers or active transportation users, are over-represented in fatal crashes and reportable collisions. A more detailed analysis of collisions involving this group of road users is needed to better understand contributing factors in these fatalities. Working with key partners with knowledge of national data sources, key risks and preventive measures with respect to older road users, can help guide the selection of proven countermeasures to reduce risk among drivers and active transportation users as they age.
To the Ottawa Police Service (OPS)
OPS should continue Targeted enforcement for peak crash periods to help curb risk-taking associated with fatal collisions. Fatal collisions were more prevalent in spring, summer, and September. These periods of year are generally associated with clear, dry roads, long weekends, holiday travellers and higher travel speeds. These are also periods when students graduate and return to school. Warmer weather and more daylight hours are also more conducive to active transportation modes such as walking and cycling. With respect to speed collisions in lower density and rural areas, increased enforcement resources and targeted efforts during months with more speed fatalities are needed.
Crashes were also more common on weekdays and during peak periods in the morning, mid-afternoon and evening which typically produce higher levels of traffic congestion. Generally, the characteristics of these collisions indicate distracted and fatigued driving as well as speeding are more often contributing factors, and active transportation users are at greater risk of injury. As such, focused enforcement on these risky behaviours combined with educational initiatives can help reduce the prevalence of these collisions.
To the OPS and the City of Ottawa
The OPS and Safer Roads Ottawa should work collaboratively to increase enforcement and education about the risks associated with alcohol and drug-impaired driving. Impairment was a factor in one-third (33%) of fatal collisions in Ottawa. Polysubstance use (more than one substance) was common in Ottawa as is the case nationally. The most common combination of substances is alcohol and cannabis, and research shows that combining cannabis with even small amounts of alcohol can increase crash risk (Lyon & Robertson, 2020; ICADTS, 2022a; ICADTS 2022b). As such, increased enforcement and education during months with peak impaired driving crashes are important to combat this problem. Providing adequate resources to sustain training of officers in impaired driving enforcement and deliver targeted enforcement initiatives are essential to increase general deterrence which is accomplished by increasing the real likelihood drivers will be detected, as well as the perception that drivers will be detected.
In addition, concerted public education about the risk associated with impairment is needed to highlight the effects of combining alcohol and cannabis on crash risk.
To the Fatal Collision Review Committee and the Ministry of Transportation Ontario (MTO)
- FCRC and MTO should work collaboratively to conduct further comparisons of the prevalence of prior convictions and suspensions for drivers involved in fatal collisions and drivers in the general population. The average number of prior convictions among drivers in fatal collisions for whom records were available was 5.3. Almost one in five (19%) drivers had more than 10 previous convictions and the highest number was 29. The MTO should analyze and provide provincial data related to the same. Further analysis of this issue may provide guidance with respect to the need for stronger penalties, driver improvement programs, and other remediation measures to reduce fatal crashes in Ottawa.
To the Ministry of Transportation Ontario
- 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. At present, e-bike collisions are misclassified as motorcycles or bicycles, and this may be due in part to after-market modifications by riders. A review of e-bike definitions and coding strategies across jurisdictions can help address this data gap and ensure the safety risks associated with this mode of transportation are recognized and managed accordingly. Data improvements can increase knowledge about this issue and it can then be determined whether specific interventions may be required to prevent deaths involving these vehicles.