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Why Doesn’t Canada Experience a Traffic Safety Crisis?

Canada has seen a decline in car accidents as US roadways become more dangerous. These rules and procedures assist in illuminating the reasons.

Almost all other industrialized nations have seen a drop, despite the fact that road fatalities in the US are increasing (including the fastest spike on record in 2021). For instance, the number of road fatalities in France is currently only a third of that in the US. According to Yonah Freemark, a researcher at the Urban Institute, “today the average French person is 40% safer than the average American.” Thirty years ago, French streets were riskier than those in the US.

It could be simple to dismiss comparisons of the US and France’s transportation systems given that France is a smaller country than Texas and many of its roadways were constructed centuries before the invention of the automobile. What about taking a look at Canada, a vast, car-oriented country with cities that are fairly new and have similar layouts?

Despite the apparent similarities between the two countries, Canada’s achievements in the area of traffic safety stand in stark contrast to the US’s continuous difficulties. In 2020, 118 out of every million Americans lost their lives in collisions, which is 2.5 times more than Canada’s average of 46. The difference between the two is growing as well; from 2010 to 2020, the number of road fatalities in the US per capita increased by 19% while it decreased almost as quickly in Canada.

Instead of turning across the Atlantic for better regulations and practices, US authorities looking for solutions to the nation’s rising road fatality rate only need to look north of the 49th parallel. A few of the reasons why Canada is doing better than the US in terms of road safety are listed below.

Americans and Canadians initially appear to have largely similar tastes in automobiles: The same two full-sized pickup trucks that led US charts last year were the best-selling vehicles in the Great White North. However, despite the fact that the car fleets on both sides of the border seem to be very similar, there are several crucial, life-saving variations.

The US auto market has entirely abandoned sedans: SUVs and pickup trucks, which have been getting bigger themselves, now account for almost 70% of sales. That’s bad news for bikers and pedestrians, who are more likely to suffer injuries or pass away in a collision with a larger, taller car. Researchers have connected the rising death toll to bigger cars as the number of pedestrian deaths on American roads in 2021 was predicted to reach a 40-year high of 7,485.

In general, Canadians have chosen smaller cars despite moving away from sedans and toward SUVs and trucks.

According to data from the Canadian automotive consultancy DesRosiers, subcompact and compact SUV sales have increased at a faster rate than those of the three- and four-ton behemoths that are becoming more and more ubiquitous on US highways.

People often say that Canada sits culturally between the US and Europe, said Ian Jack, the vice president of public affairs for the Canadian Automobile Association. With car culture you really do see that. We’re not all driving around in tiny cars like in Europe, but nor do we fetishize Cadillac Escalades like in the US. SUVs are growing more popular here, but we tend to buy them one size smaller than in the US.

Although desire for somewhat smaller vehicles may contribute to Canada’s declining rate of pedestrian and bike fatalities, correlation does not imply causation. According to Canada’s National Collision Database, both have consistently decreased since 2010, however in the US, mortality for both increased by more than 40% between 2010 and 2020.

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