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Quebec launches Highway Safety Year

MONTREAL, Que. - Having said nearly a year ago that he wanted road safety to be a priority, Quebec Transport Minister Michel Dupres announced just before Christmas the Quebec government declaration th...

MONTREAL, Que. – Having said nearly a year ago that he wanted road safety to be a priority, Quebec Transport Minister Michel Dupres announced just before Christmas the Quebec government declaration that 2007 would be ‘Highway Safety Year.’ The goal is to reduce the number of highway accident casualties.

Truck News requested an advance look at the action plan that will give substance to Highway Safety Year, due to be made public at the end of January, but Transports Quebec declined. However, the public can expect short-, medium- and long-term plans, including an intensified police presence. Already, the provincial police force has announced it will invest $1 million to redistribute its resources, and the Montreal police has hired 133 new officers, who will beef up road patrols. The Association of Police Directors has developed a highway safety strategy for the province. Part of the strategy should be an information campaign to change the attitudes of drivers, as Dupres says that 80% of accidents are caused by “behaviour,” by which one presumes means bad attitude and poor judgement, both found in abundance.

Statistics collected between 1999 and 2004 report a 6.6% decrease in highway deaths, an 11% increase in serious injuries and a 7.7% increase in light injuries. The worst statistics are courtesy of light trucks, motorcycles, mopeds and all terrain vehicles. Light injuries in accidents involving heavy trucks are up 9.6%, in near lockstep with the 9.9% increase in the number of heavy trucks and semis on the road between 2001 and 2005. However, heavy truck accidents are becoming more serious, with those involving deaths up 18.4% between 1999 and 2004 and those involving serious injuries up 6.2%. The trucking industry can count on receiving some attention when the action plan is rolled out.

The Societe de l’assurance automobile du Quebec (SAAQ) recently released a 181-page packet of statistics for 2001 to 2005 on heavy trucks and semis. Some highlights: The number of heavy trucks and semis are up from 107,149 in 2001 to 117,810 in 2005. The average age of the trucks have decreased from 8.4 years to 8.32 years.

The number of trucks less than a year old in circulation leaped from 9,500 in 2001 to 16,726 in 2005. The number of trucks four to eight years old increased, by about 13% for seven-year-old trucks to nearly 89% for five-year-old trucks.

The number of women holding Class 1 licences jumped from 2,755 in 2001 to 3,828 in 2005, with women in the 35-44 and 45-54 age categories receiving nearly all of them.

Of great concern, considering the years-old driver shortage, was the only small increase in the number of men holding Class 1 licences: Their numbers rose by just 1,083, a troubling showing considering that there were 195,167 male Class 1 licence holders in the province in 2005; i.e., truck driving has traditionally been a popular male sport in the province.

The small net increase in male drivers would seem to reflect a plummeting popularity for the profession rather than a lot of retirees offsetting a lot of new Class 1 licence holders: There was a drop of 11,939 Class 1 licence holders among those between 20 and 44 years of age. Only a few of them could have graduated to older age brackets: there were only 1,157 more licence holders aged 45-54 (there were 7,811 more aged 55-64 and 4,003 more aged 65-74). It is a fair bet that most of the drop reflects younger drivers leaving the workforce.

The number of women holding Class 3 licences between 2001 and 2005 increased by 142 to 1,141 and the number of male Class 3 licence holders dropped sharply, by 3,747 to 92,469. Again, the biggest attrition was among those aged 22-44.

The total number of infractions, of 34 listed that result in licence demerit points, plummeted by 29,513 to 44,396 among Class 1 and 3 licence holders. A reduction in speeding and seat belts infractions account for the vast majority of this improvement, although exceeding the speed limit by between 21 and 30 km/h was still worth 16,471 infractions in 2005, but still way down from 29,218 in 2001. The report also shuffles the numbers to classify demerit-worthy infractions by heavy trucks and semis: That number has dropped by 5,849 to just 7,019. Again, the biggest drops were for seat belt and speeding infractions.

The number of heavy trucks and semi accidents involving fatalities increased from 99 to 132 between 2001 and 2005; serious injuries from 318 to 371; light injuries from 1,847 to 2,246. The grand total of accidents increased from 11,829 in 2001 to 13,423 – just under 14%.

Fast facts:

* Number of female Class 1 licence holders in Quebec is up from 2,755 in 2001 to 3,828 in 2005;

* The number of male drivers behind the wheel in Quebec has increased slightly since 2001;

* There were 11,939 fewer 20-44 year old Class 1 licence holders in 2005 than in 2001. Most of them left the industry;

* Class 1 and 3 licence holders received 29,513 fewer tickets for infractions involving demerit points in Quebec in 2005 compared to 2001.

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