Road Safety Strategy (RSS) 2025 is similar to its predecessors in a number of ways. It retains the long-term vision of Making Canada’s roads the safest in the world but combines this with the vision of Towards Zero.
A number of principles key to the strategy’s success have been aligned with international best practices in road safety.
These principles include:
- Adopting the Safe System Approach
- A 10-year timeline
- Providing an inventory of proven and promising best practices to address key risk groups and contributing factors
It encourages road safety stakeholders from all levels of government as well as private sector and non-governmental stakeholders to collaborate and unite efforts to make Canada’s roads the safest in the world.
RSS 2025’s vision, “Towards Zero - The safest roads in the world” is based on an international best practice first adopted by Sweden in 1997 where Vision Zero was approved by its parliament and has permeated the country’s approach to road safety ever since. It has resulted in Sweden having among the lowest traffic-related fatality rates world-wide and has led to other countries and municipal governments initiating similar approaches.
Towards Zero is not a target to be achieved by a certain date; it is aspirational. This vision will continue beyond RSS 2025’s timeline and highlights the desire for the best road safety outcomes for all Canadian jurisdictions.
The following strategic objectives form the cornerstone of RSS 2025 and focus on safer road users, road infrastructure and vehicles:
- Raising public awareness and commitment to road safety
- Improving communication, cooperation and collaboration among stakeholders
- Enhancing legislation and enforcement
- Improving road safety information in support of research and evaluation
- Improving the safety of vehicles and road infrastructure
- Leveraging technology and innovation
RSS 2025 Guiding Principles
Adopting a Safe System Approach
The Safe System Approach (SSA) is how many countries leading in road safety are achieving their vision of eliminating deaths and serious injuries. SSA contains the following principles:
- Ethics: human life and health are paramount and take priority over mobility and other objectives of the road traffic system (i.e., life and health can never be exchanged for other benefits within the society)
- Responsibility: providers and regulators of the road traffic system share responsibility with users
- Safety: road traffic systems should take account of human fallibility and minimize both the opportunities for errors and the harm done when they occur
- Mechanisms for change: providers and regulators must do their utmost to guarantee the safety of all citizens; they must cooperate with road users; and all three must be ready to change to achieve safety. It is recognized that Canadian jurisdictions will implement the SSA in a manner that is Appropriate to their environment
Figure 1.1 .Source: This diagram is a Canadian version adapted from the 2009 World Health Organization report on the Global Status on Road Safety which was in turn modified from work commissioned by the Government of Western Australia.
RSS 2025 seeks to achieve directional downward trends in the rate-based number of fatalities and serious injuries rather than in the actual numbers of fatalities and serious injuries. These trends will be measured at the national level annually using multi-year rolling averages to smooth out short-term fluctuations since year-over-year reductions may not be practical or attainable.
Two rate-based indicators commonly used internationally are: fatalities and serious injuries per 100,000 population (World Health Organization, 2014), and fatalities and serious injuries per billion kilometers travelled (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and International Transport Forum, 2012). In Canada, the rate-based indicators will be:
- Fatalities and serious injuries per billion kilometres travelled, and
- Fatalities and serious injuries per one hundred thousand population
Although the strategy does not include hard quantitative targets, it does not preclude individual jurisdictions or organizations from establishing their own targets when there is government, law enforcement and/or road safety stakeholder support for doing so.
Online Inventory of Road Safety Best Practices Core to the strategy is an inventory of best practice interventions used by leading road safety countries that have been effective in reducing fatalities and serious injuries. The online inventory can be accessed under the menu tab Road Safety Measures.
Road Safety Vision (RSV) 2001
Canada was one of the first countries in the world to adopt a national road safety strategy and to date, three national strategies have been implemented. Road Safety Vision (RSV) 2001 was Canada’s inaugural national road safety strategy. It was adopted by the Council of Ministers Responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety in 1996. The progress made during RSV 2001 can be measured by the 10% decrease in fatalities and 16% decline in serious injuries despite steady increases in the road user population2.
Road Safety Vision (RSV) 2010
In 2001, the second strategy, Road Safety Vision (RSV) 2010 was approved by the Council of Ministers. The vision and strategic objectives of this second road safety strategy were based on RSV 2001 and a decision was made to include an overall national target and sub-targets. The quantitative targets were intended to provide road safety stakeholders with key road safety indicators, against which the impact of intervention efforts could be measured.
The national target called for a 30% decrease in the average number of road users killed and seriously injured during the 2008-2010 period compared to 1996-2001 baseline figures. The proposed reductions in sub-targets ranged from 20% to 40% and addressed the specific areas of occupant protection, impaired driving, commercial vehicle safety, vulnerable road users, speed and intersection safety, rural roadways, young drivers and high-risk drivers. It was expected that the achievement of these sub-targets would further reduce Canada’s road fatality total to fewer than 2,100 by 2010. Although the 30% reduction in fatalities and serious injuries was not achieved by 2010, it was achieved soon after in 20113.
Road Safety Strategy (RSS) 2015
Road Safety Strategy (RSS) 2015 was launched in 2011 as Canada’s third national strategy and built upon the previous road safety vision and strategic objectives. RSS 2015 approached road safety in a different way introducing the safer systems concept as a holistic way to tackle road user, vehicle and road infrastructure issues and moved away from having established numerical targets
A significant shift in this strategy was the introduction of a framework of best practices, consisting of a matrix of key risk groups and contributing factors, along with an inventory of road safety initiatives that jurisdictions could adopt to address their specific jurisdictional priorities.
In 2013, the number of fatalities and serious injuries on Canada’s roads both decreased by 21% when compared to the 2006-2010 baseline period. When vehicle kilometres travelled are factored in, the reduction in fatality and serious injury rates are similar. According to the United Nations’ World Health Organization, “the best-performing countries have road fatality rates of around 5-7 killed per 100,000 population” 4. In 2012, Canada had a rate of 6.0 fatalities per 100,000 population5. In 2012, Canada’s ranking among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member countries was 13th based on fatalities per billion vehicle kilometres traveled6.
1. Transport Canada, 2015 Draft Report on the Social Costs of Collisions in Canada, 1996-2012.
2. Transport Canada, 2004, Road Safety Vision 2010, 2002 Annual Report.
3. Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, Road Safety Vision 2010, Final Report, November 2013
4. OECD and International Transport Forum, Transport Research Centre, Towards Zero: Ambitious Road Safety Targets and the Safe System Approach. 2008.
5. Transport Canada (2015a) Canadian Motor Vehicle Collision Statistics: 2013.
6. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and International Transport Forum, Road Safety Annual Report 2014.