Some important statistics from the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), the provincial Crown Corporation responsible for driver licensing, registration and primary insurance coverage, came out yesterday.

If you’ve felt that driving in BC was getting a bit more dangerous, you’re right. ICBC has confirmed that, in 2017, there were 350,000 crashes province-wide. Think of that number — that means there were almost 1,000 crashes every day last year. Statistically, this also suggests (conservatively, assuming single-car crashes) that about one in every ten drivers will be involved in a crash this year.

That figure of 350,000 crashes also works out to 40 crashes every hour in the province; overall, this costs ICBC $4.8 billion, or roughly $13 million per day.

This is also $1 billion more than the cost of the proposed 10-lane Massey Bridge (last estimated in the $3.7 billion range).

ICBC released a short statement acknowledging the sad reality — that vehicular crashes have increased by 25 per cent in the past four years. Price Tags has previously reported on the ground breaking work of recently retired Provincial Medical Health Officer, Dr. Perry Kendall, who identified car crashes as a major cause of death in his 2016 report “Where the Rubber Hits the Road”.

In 2011, nearly half of all serious crash injuries were not to people in cars, but to vulnerable road users — those without a steel frame for protection. In terms of fatalities, vulnerable road users were 32 per cent of all mortalities in 2011, increasing to 35 per cent in 2013.

Here’s the other bottom line. In our province, about 300 people are killed each year on the roads, give or take a few dozen. Three factors have been proven to contribute to fatal crashes: speed, driver distraction and impairment (drugs, alcohol), and the built environment (road design and construction).

Two of these factors can be dealt with immediately. Road speed can be addressed by increased enforcement and notification of enforcement, as has effectively been done by the Delta Police Department, within their jurisdiction. Speeds to and from the ferry in Tsawwassen along Highway 17 have been noticeably down since the police blitz. On Vancouver Island, the regional district is asking the Province to install point-to-point speed cameras on the Malahat Highway, a particularly dangerous road.

In the 21st century speed enforcement by camera should be thought of as a safety precaution assisting safe travel, instead of a governmental cash grab. That financial inference might be solved by having fines placed into a fund assisting victims of car crashes.

The second factor, driver distraction and impairment, can also be addressed by education, such as the courses delivered by ICBC, enforcement, and stricter penalties for driver distraction. Changes in road design are clearly in the Vision Zero mandate of moving towards a target of no deaths of any road users, and those changes need to be made to ensure that vehicles travel at the posted speed, and not above.

In a province that has universal health care and universal vehicular insurance, it just makes sense to ameliorate the high crash rate and to save road users from serious injuries and death.

It’s time to think of changing road design to drive to posted speeds, and emphasizing driving for safety, not for quick arrival.  The ICBC crash statistics call for a drastic new approach to road safety that begins now.


  1. A few years ago we were driving side roads of West Van near Lighthouse Park. There was no traffic – you could lie down in the road. Yet we came accross a crash. Someone innattentively backed out of a driveway and got whacked.
    Those first few minutes driving are critical – drivers aren’t in the zone. They get in, turn the thing on, screw with the radio and phone, have a sip of coffee, arrange their snacks – all instead of taking this operation seriously. Think rocket launching – the astronauts are deadly focused.
    No way should smoking be permitted while driving. It’s distracting. It coats the windows. You see drivers flicking ashes out the window to avoid soiling their vehicle. And many, so many, throw the butt out – dangerous to all. A ten cent deposit on cigarette butts would take care of that – and clean up our great outdoors overnight.
    I’ve been guilty of eating while driving, but don’t do it anymore. It’s dangerous, and lousy for the digestion. And only drink water out of a sports bottle – even that with care. If you can’t drive without sucking on a coffee, you need to rearrange your life.

  2. A couple of things beyond the tragedy of the above stats.

    Cities should ideally start to convert a fraction of their road space and parking into pedestrian streets with provision for bikes. Pricetags commenters have previously proposed Water Street east of Richards to Gassy Jack’s statue, Granville Street downtown and segments of Robson. Think of it in terms of public safety and quality urban design.

    The BC Liberals siphoned off one billion dollars from ICBC over their 16-year reign to balance several annual provincial budgets. The same applies to BC Hydro. This is third party money that belongs to ratepayers taken from outside the tax revenue stream. This allowed the Libs to portray themselves as sound fiscal managers while the crown corporations were forced to assume record levels of debt and increase rates accordingly. That has to change.

    1. The concept that speed enforcement is a cash grab is nonsense since no one is forced to drive faster than the speed limit. However, in one of the Scandinavian countries, they put some of the enforcement proceeds into a lottery and a winner is drawn from those who were observed to not break the speed limit. Monthly draw.

    2. A strong factor in increased accidents is more and more motorists squeezed into shrinking roads, your “solution” merely exacerbates that problem. Add to that increasing densification across the city is bringing more cars with it, unless you believe in unicorns, pixies and the myth that dwellers in these new multifamily buildings don’t own cars.

      The whole issue should make everyone question why we have ICBC in the first place. Why should this become a government issue? Didn’t David Eby say something to the effect that he didn’t get into politics to sell car insurance? As long as the government mandates motorists carry insurance, who cares if the private sector provides it? Just as only Nixon could go to China, maybe only the NDP can scrap ICBC.

      1. “A strong factor in increased accidents is more and more motorists squeezed into shrinking roads”

        1) True, 2) False.

        You provide no argument or evidence, so your assertion looked fishy to me. So I looked it up. More vehicle registrations does result in more collisions. But traffic and congestion result in *fewer* accidents per vehicle. So you’re right about more motorists – reducing car ownership will prevent fatalities. But you’re wrong about the roads: shrinking them will also save lives.

      2. @ Bob

        Copenhagen, led by Jan Gehl (one of the world’s leading urbanists), “shrank” its downtown public road space by 3% a year since the 60s. It was such a small incremental amount stretched over such a long time that no one noticed. After 40 years the city converted a cumulative 100,000 m2 (25 acres) of car space to pedestrian space while also building a rapid transit system and one of the most extensive bicycle systems in the world. The 6 km Stroget devoted exclusively to walking human beings was one important results, and it is treasured by all.

        Currently, almost 1/3 of Vancouver’s land is tarmac. That’s tens of millions of m2. If you are suggesting that the city cannot spare a fraction of a per cent of that for better quality uses, and in fact should expand the roads to accommodate our high per capita rate of car ownership even as the population grows, then I’d give us give us ’til just beyond mid-century before buildings and parks are demolished for roads. After that English Bay will be filled in for parking.

        You might be able to grasp now how important it will become as time passes to learn to live with fewer cars and the massive publicly-owned infrastructure they require. The status quo is unsustainable over the long run.

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