Authorities urge caution as Quebec enters deadliest period on the road

The deadliest season on Quebec roads has begun in the last few days, and already "it's following the trend" of previous years, warned CAA-Quebec Foundation director Marco Harrison.

According to CAA, the 75-day period between St. Jean Baptiste Day and Labour Day is historically the period when the most fatal traffic accidents occur in the province.

"There are already five traffic fatalities in six days," Harrison said in a telephone interview Thursday.

In 2021, a total of 92 deaths occurred in those two-and-a-half months, according to the Quebec auto insurance agency (SAAQ) road toll. Although this period is only one-fifth of the year, it has seen more than a quarter of the 347 deaths.

"It's the season when we see a lot of motorcyclists, cyclists, there are more pedestrians on the streets, and more traffic means more accidents," said SAAQ spokesperson Mario Vaillancourt.

"Unfortunately, sharing the road is still a difficult thing to understand for some users," Harrison said.

He also noted that there is "an influx of out-of-town visitors, whether from another province or the United States.

There are "substantially more recreational vehicles on the road," he said, noting that "during the two years of the pandemic, there was a craze for these vehicles, and they sold a lot of them."

CAA's annual summer travel intentions survey, released June 1, shows that almost half (45 per cent) of Quebecers plan to travel within the province, compared to 28 per cent who will go elsewhere in Canada or abroad and 20 per cent who will stay home.

SPEED AND DISTRACTION

Harrison and Vaillancourt agree that the main causes of accidents are distraction and speeding.

"Most people are on vacation, so I don't see the urgency of speeding, of being distracted," said Harrison. "Let's say you're going 110 km/h instead of 90 km/h on a road where the speed limit is 90. Well, for 20 km, you're only going to save two minutes. Is it really worth it?"

He was keen to reiterate the importance of staying alert, making sure you are seen and always keeping a safe distance from other cars, so you always have the manoeuvering room to brake sharply or avoid an obstacle.

"Plan your route in advance. now there are plenty of apps or sites on the internet where you can go and look at the route you want to take," said Harrison. "Are there any pitfalls during the trip? Is there any construction on the route that I want to use? Because that's going to affect the trip."

On the SAAQ side, they also warn against the consequences of driving fatigue during long vacation trips with the awareness campaign `Stop before fatigue stops you,' launched in the last few weeks.

Despite this, "over the past decade, the road safety record has improved," said Vaillancourt. "The number of accidents per se is decreasing," noting that "one death is always one too many."

-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on July 3, 2022. 

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