Traffic Safety Initiative

As Co-Chair of the City’s traffic safety Council initiative- along with my colleague Councillor Esslinger-I have a new understanding and appreciation of challenges and issues around traffic safety. In Edmonton, traffic safety has been the number one concern of citizens since 2001.

Of all of the different aspects of traffic safety I know are being discussed, what really stands out for me personally is the prevalence of speeding in our community.

When I was knocking on doors during last year’s election campaign, citizens made it patently clear that speeding is probably one of their biggest concerns, particularly in neighbourhoods.

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to any of you to hear that neighbourhoods are where we live, play, raise our families.

And although the Office of Traffic Safety has instituted some excellent programs-like the 40km per hour speed reduction policy, community safety vans and pace cars-the concern persists.

Canadian studies estimate that speed is a factor in 25 percent of fatal vehicle collisions.

In a 60km zone, the risk of being involved in a collision doubles at just 5km over the limit. The risk is four times higher for 10km over, and then TEN TIMES HIGHER for 15km over the set limit.

Very sobering statistics, and even more so when you consider that we’re not just talking about vehicle collisions, but collisions involving motorists and vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists. Like children and seniors. Like our neighbours and families and friends.

For its part, the City of Edmonton – by way of the Office of Traffic Safety, other branches of Transportation Services and the Edmonton Police Service – works to achieve this goal through education, engineering, enforcement and evaluation.

Where we really need to focus our efforts, though, is in changing driver behaviour… because all the engineering, education and enforcement imposed by the City of Edmonton is meaningless unless those behind the wheel understand that safety is a shared responsibility.

There’s been a lot of talk in Edmonton about how the City uses photo radar for what many suspect are purely financial motivations.

I guess if you’ve received a handful of photo radar tickets in an area where you feel justified in going a little faster, that perception is strengthened.

But could a single one of those drivers honestly say that they didn’t know what the speed limit is in that area? The signs are clearly posted, and those limits are not chosen arbitrarily.

Enforcement is the last resort but it would seem that more and more, we have to ramp up our enforcement efforts because people either don’t understand why the speed limit is set the way it is, or just don’t think about whom else may be impacted by the decisions they are making.


Karim El-Basyouny is an assistant professor at the University of Alberta in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He also happens to be an expert in, and studies, the relationship between photo radar and speed reduction, collisions, and lives. His research is used not only by the City of Edmonton, but has been published by the US Transportation Research Board, a part of the prestigious National Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. In an interview, found here, about photo radar, Karim El-Basyouny says that photo radar "in Edmonton has been effective in saving lives", and that this is a conclusion based on the data from studies, not his personal opinion. 

If photo radar can save a single life, prevent a single devastating injury, it will be worth it. But more than placing new signs, informing the public and cracking down on violators, attitudes have to change-everyone including drivers, cyclists and pedestrians has to buy into a culture of traffic safety.

It takes time. It takes a lot of work. But we have an opportunity to be leaders in this country when it comes to traffic safety…..and personally, I’m excited about what’s ahead.

We will look for new ways to make our roads safer, and we will seek out chances to engage our citizens, our community organizations and others to shift the city’s focus.

It’s not up to City Council or administration to mandate safety – it’s up to ALL of us who call Edmonton home to accept personal responsibility for what happens on our roads.

I am hopeful that working together, we can figure out the best way to make that happen.