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Road Safety: Open Letter from Valerie Lavoie President and COO – Desjardins General Insurance Group

October 20, 2022

Every day we see and feel the impact of unsafe driving behaviours. We hear the screeching tires; we witness the near-misses—and we too often forget to look at ourselves or those we share the road with.

Preventable tragedies happen every day in every country. Families and communities mourn lives cut short. Too many.

These stories weigh heavily on me.

I said preventable. I agree with the experts who—backed by evidence—have been saying since the invention of the automobile that most injuries and fatalities resulting from road incidents and collisions are in fact preventable.

With seat belts, air bags and rear-view cameras, we have come a long way in building much safer vehicles. Today, collectively, we need to take our behaviour behind the wheel and our vision for infrastructure in the same direction.

We all share the road, as drivers, cyclists or pedestrians. And that need for safety comes down in large part to our own attitudes and behaviours. We're all quite good at criticizing others while ignoring our own faults, aren't we?

For our annual road safety survey, we surveyed nearly 4,000 Canadians this year. When I reflect on this year’s results, I'm alarmed to see that 4% of respondents say they’ve driven under the influence of alcohol in the past year. Even more shocking is that 11% of respondents between the ages of 16 and 24 admit to having driven under the influence of alcohol in that same period. We all need to do our part in preventing senseless road related fatalities and injuries.

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 1.3 million people die globally each year from crashes, and millions more suffer non-fatal injuries. More than half of those deaths involve vulnerable road users.

And since we're all road users nearly every day of our lives—from our first steps to the park to our first solo bike ride or trips with our family—road safety is everyone's business.

Our saving grace is that we can make the proverbial U-turn. Through simple actions, each of us can make a difference—by avoiding driving while impaired, reducing our speed, keeping our eyes on the road and treating every other user with respect and courtesy.

At Desjardins, we leverage partnerships with organizations such as Parachute, the Traffic Injury Research Foundation, Arrive Alive and Operation Red Nose, and through daily business with our members and clients, we strive to increase awareness, educate road users and develop solutions that can help save lives and prevent injury.

Road safety is a shared responsibility, and we must hold ourselves and each other accountable. The economic burden of collision-related injuries and deaths in Canada is more than $3.6 billion a year. The personal toll is immeasurable.

We are encouraged by the number of municipalities across Canada, including major centres such as Montreal, Edmonton and Toronto, that have joined the Vision Zero movement—advocating for the right to safe mobility and rethinking how our infrastructure is designed. Alongside human error, how we build our roads is another major cause of road mishaps and collisions. We need more: more municipalities, more Canadian cities to join.

It really comes down to what we value as individuals, corporations and a society. And about our individual and collective mindset. Is it too much to ask for a small change that can make a real difference in people's lives?

With road crashes being the third-leading cause of death among young people in Canada, let's take the opportunity to effect real change and create safer streets.

That is, in fact, where the rubber meets the road.

Road Safety Survey Results 2022 This link will open in a new window.