Traffic safety continues to be a discussion point for many St. Albert residents. It is particularly topical when a tragedy strikes our community.

Some residents believe that vehicle drivers carry the entire responsibility for traffic safety. Others suggest that new bicycle safety education, new signs, new rules, or new ‘trail barriers' should be initiated or installed in an effort to ensure we make our streets safe for all roadway users. 

There are other traffic safety philosophies that deserve consideration in St. Albert. ‘Vision Zero’ has been adopted in several countries and cities, and can provide guidance for reducing injuries associated with traffic collisions. Wikipedia provides this useful definition:

“Vision Zero is based on an underlying ethical principle that "it can never be ethically acceptable that people are killed or seriously injured when moving within the road transport system.” As an ethics-based approach, Vision Zero functions to guide strategy selection and not to set particular goals or targets. In most road transport systems, road users bear complete responsibility for safety. Vision Zero changes this relationship by emphasizing that responsibility is shared by transportation system designers and road users.

While we must consider infrastructure installations, we should also be examining our own behaviours. Most unsafe actions are already governed by existing legislation.

Adding physical safety measures (such as ‘off-set’ barriers on trail/roadway intersections) are appropriate in locations where serious visual obstructions or significant uphill/downhill grades exist. 

Cautionary signs in specific locations may also be helpful. We must be alert to the possibility that if saturation occurs, the signs become a part of the visual ‘blur’ of everyday life. 

However, I believe there are many other steps we as a community can take before we presume that simply dedicating cash to traffic safety solutions will solve the problems. 

As parents and responsible adults in St. Albert, we are all accountable. We need to have discussions with younger citizens at every relevant opportunity about personal responsibility, personal safety, and the rules of the road. These discussions could be bolstered with an explanation of the reasoning for the traffic laws and why they are in place. 

How do we establish personal accountability?

Parents need to closely supervise their children whenever possible. Don’t let poor judgement become the norm. Model safe and lawful behaviours, and routinely have discussions about why adhering to the rules is important.

Remind your family members why it is so important to detach earbuds whenever interacting directly in any roadway use.

Uniform officers should be always visible in the community, as a deterrent, and to have personal discussions with young persons to acknowledge correct road safety behaviours. They must talk to those who put themselves in grave danger by ignoring existing rules or simply demonstrating poor judgement. This doesn’t necessarily require a heavy hand, but a real consequence for dangerous and/or unlawful behaviours. It’s another layer of personal accountability.

Having an officer explain why a certain action was well thought out and safe (or inherently dangerous) is probably the only reminder many would need. This kind of uniform officer interaction will save more young lives than a new sign or new rule will ever realize.

Several years ago, St. Albert embarked on a very thorough and expensive pedestrian safety review. The Safe Journeys to Schools1 (SJ2S) program (… cost $4.4 million when complete) will include the installation of crosswalk signs, speed feedback signs, roadway realignment and new traffic lights in the vicinity of most schools in St. Albert. This project involved consultation with many user groups, planners, engineers, educators, parents and the RCMP.

Page 18 of the SJ2S report detailed traffic safety issues around schools. Of the top 6 issues, 5 were driver related. Of the total responses (530), 82% were driver behaviour related, not infrastructure related. It’s clear what needed to be fixed.

We should be reasonably confident that school aged children have been taught an age appropriate level of traffic safety by their parents, teachers and police (who are assigned to our school systems2). Bicycle operation and the related safety considerations should and likely would be part of that education. Adults have no excuse to be uneducated about all matters of traffic safety. But unsafe examples, both young and old, are evident almost every day.

I have seen groups of children (10 - 12 years old) walking against a wait light at a busy intersection near a school. They know better, looking firstly at the light, then laughing as they sprint across the road. Somewhere the message has failed.

I have seen adults and youngsters riding bikes without helmets, even though bylaws are in place to try mitigate injuries in the event of a bicycle collision or simple loss of control. I have observed adults pushing a baby stroller, with a very young cyclist in the group, all walking across an unmarked and uncontrolled intersection when a safe, well marked and light controlled crosswalk is immediately across the roadway. I have watched adults, child in hand, glance up at a pedestrian control light and then immediately strike out against the wait light. Or texting while they drive, with children watching this behaviour in the vehicle. 

This modelling of inappropriate or unlawful behaviour3 certainly gives the wrong message to youngsters who then believe the traffic and safety rules are for someone else.

There is ample room to improve on the behaviours we already know to be safe. There is room to reflect on our own responsibilities and to teach our children the ‘why’ and ‘how’. And those who create a safety risk for others need to held to account.

We can all play a part in bicycle, pedestrian and roadway safety. The police, who are already an available community safety resource, must be fully engaged. It doesn’t have to cost millions of additional dollars to be safe. And we can’t wait until another tragedy occurs.

1) https://stalbert.ca/uploads/PDF-reports/Safe_Journeys_to_School_-_Report_without_Appendix.pdf
2) https://stalbert.ca/uploads/PDF-reports/RCMP-School-Resource-Officer-YearEndReport_2017_2.pdf
3) http://www.tac.vic.gov.au/road-safety/tac-campaigns/young-drivers/strings#strings
https://visionzero.ca

 


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