Fewer accidents in 2017, but more deaths on Quebec roads

There were fewer accidents on Quebec roads in 2017 compared with the previous year, but they resulted in more deaths.

Quebec Transport Minister André Fortin and Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec chairperson Nathalie Tremblay on Tuesday made public the board’s accident statistics compiled for 2017.

While the number of accidents dropped by 257 compared with 2016, the number of deaths increased by 13 and of those seriously injured by 28.

In total there were 28,109 accidents and 359 people died on the province’s roads last year. In addition, 1,501 were seriously injured and 35,330 were slightly injured.

The toll was particularly grim among young people age 15-24, with the death toll going from 46 in 2016 to 75 in 2017, an increase of 63 per cent.

One out of five of all those deaths occurred between midnight and 4 a.m.

There was also bad news for pedestrians: The death toll for those road users increased 11.3 per cent to 69.

In 65 per cent of the fatal cases, pedestrians were crossing the roadway. Nearly half of pedestrian injuries and deaths occurred at night and between 4 p.m. and 4 a.m.

Among cyclists, there were 11 deaths compared to 8 in 2016. However, the number of serious injuries decreased slightly by 2 per cent.

Distraction was cited as causing the highest number of accidents in Quebec, accounting for 35 per cent of the total, while excessive speed was blamed for 34 per cent, drinking and driving for 26 per cent and fatigue for 22 per cent.

Transport Minister Fortin says sanctions surrounding cellphones at the wheel have been tightened.

“Now, the fines will be $300 for cellphones while driving, a second offence will be $600 and your licence will be suspended for three days on the spot,” Fortin said. Your car will be towed, your licence will be suspended, so there will be real consequences in your everyday life.”

The death toll on the roads is expected to increase next year due to the legalization of cannabis. On Tuesday, Fortin expressed “concern” and called on the federal government to quickly develop a technology to detect THC in the blood.

Cannabis is slated to be legalized by the Trudeau government this summer.

Already in 2016, 32 per cent of drivers who died in Quebec had drugs in their blood, and cannabis was the most commonly detected drug, Tremblay said.

The number of victims aged 75 or older has decreased by almost a third (27 per cent) in one year.

Motorcycle fatalities fell 9.3 per cent in 2017, but the number of serious injuries increased 3 per cent.