Here’s something to consider as you pack the family vehicle for a summer holiday: The rate of traffic deaths and injuries in Canada has been falling steadily for decades but statistics show wide disparities from province to province and in the northern territories.
Some 2,209 people were killed in Canadian road accidents in 2009, the latest year for which Transport Canada has complete stats, compared with 2,898 in 2005 and almost 4,000 in 1990. Injuries dropped to just under 173,000 in 2009 from almost 205,000 in 2005.
But when you look at individual Provinces and Territories, it’s clear your chances of getting in a serious accident can vary greatly.
Many factors contribute to those differences, according to Transport Canada. In urban areas, it’s things like the vulnerability of pedestrians, cyclists and motorcycle riders and problems at busy intersections. In the country, it can be higher vehicle speeds, more kilometres driven, whether the road is a divided highway or local rural road, nighttime lighting on undivided roads and the longer response time of emergency services.
Here’s how the Provinces and Territories line up, ranked from best to worst:
Canada’s largest, most populous province is also its safest. The number of fatalities and injuries per 100,000 population is 4.1 and 472.5 respectively. The rate per billion kilometres driven and per 100,000 licensed drivers is similarly low, despite often clogged metropolitan roads.
The eastern Arctic territory’s overall No. 2 ranking of 6.2 deaths and 130.5 injuries per 100,000 is a bit of an anomaly, given that it doesn’t have a lot of cars and its population is only about 30,000. Those numbers also skew upwards the rate per billion kilometres driven (65.1/1,368.1, worst in the country) and per 100,000 licensed drivers (44.7/937.7).
11. Newfoundland and Labrador
Thinking of touring this Atlantic province’s magnificent coast and picturesque outports? It has 6.3 deaths and 464 injuries per 100,000 and a second-ranged 6.9 and 8.8 fatalities per billion vehicle-kilometres and 100,000 licensed drivers. Injury rates are also below the Canadian average.
La Belle Province’s overall death rate matches the Canadian average of 6.6. Its injury rate of 550 per 100,000, and deaths and injuries per billion kilometres driven and per 100,000 drivers is slightly higher.
Manitoba boasts the lowest death rate among the Prairie provinces, with a population-based rate of 7.1 deaths and 591.7 injuries. When it comes to distance driven, the rate is 7.3/615.9 per billion kilometres, and 11.1 and 929.6 per 100,000 licensed drivers.
8. Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia’s population-based death and injury rates stand at 7.7/804.4 but it bucks a trend with lower fatality/injury rates per billion kilometres driven at 7.2/751.5. The rate per 100,000 licensed drivers stands at 10.6/1,109.2.
7. British Columbia
The West Coast province, with its high percentage of mountain roads, ranks seventh in the overall death rate at 8.4, with 451.4 injuries per 100,000. The distance rate (10.5/562.6) is slightly higher and as with other provinces the rate per 100,000 licensed drivers also jumps (12.1/648.6).
6. Prince Edward Island
An idyllic, popular vacation spot, Prince Edward Island’s small population – less than 150,000 – may account for its eighth-place overall ranking in fatalities and injuries per 100,000 population, 8.5/540.8, with a distance rate of 9.4/596.2 and a licensed-driver rate of 12.4/787.5.
5. New Brunswick
The rates in the Atlantic provinces cluster closely together. New Brunswick’s overall death and injury rates are 8.8/510.9, with distance-related rates of 8.3/480.7, and 12.1/700.2 tied to the number of licensed drivers.
While Alberta ranks 10th overall, with population-based death-injury rates of 9.6/522.2, the much lower distance rates of 7.1/385.6 suggest the province’s roads are pretty safe. The rates per 100,000 licensed drivers are 12.8/701.7.
3. Northwest Territories
The stats suggest that if you’re exploring Canada’s northern frontier, you should be watchful. Perhaps it’s the North’s more rudimentary roads, larger proportion of trucks or more freewheeling drivers, but the NWT’s overall death and injury rates are 11.4/302.2, jumping to 15.9/419.8 per billion kilometres driven and 20.5/539.9 per 100,000 licensed drivers.
Canada’s breadbasket has the worst numbers of all the prairie provinces and second-worst in Canada. The overall rates are 14.7/652.2, with the distance rates as 11.8/526 and for licensed drivers 21.2/943.5.
Statistically, the most dangerous place to drive appears to be Klondike country. Yukon’s overall death rate per 100,000 is 20.8, more than five times as high as Ontario, with an injury rate of 517.1. Some of this may be due to the small proportionate population – less than 35,000. The rate per billion kilometres driven is much lower at 13.7/341, but for licensed drivers it’s a national high of 27.6/685.6.