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Ontario saw more than 400 deaths on highways last year, making 2023 deadliest in 15 years: OPP

Ontario Provincial Police say 411 people were killed as a result of collisions on the province’s highways last year, making 2023 the deadliest in more than 15 years.

In a news release, the OPP said 2023 was the first year since 2007 when there were more than 400 deaths related to crashes investigated by the service. 

Sgt. Kerry Schmidt, spokesperson for the OPP’s Highway Safety Division, said there are several reasons police are seeing an increase. But he said the reasons are preventable.

“Aggressive driving, impaired driving, distracted driving and not wearing your proper safety equipment — it’s so critically important that we understand the rules of the road and we share the road safely, responsibly and understand the consequences for making a bad decision can be deadly, ” Schmidt said on Tuesday.

Schmidt said sometimes it’s multiple factors, such as speeding and impaired driving and lack of seatbelt use, that lead to a fatality.

He said injuries can be lifelong and are “heartbreaking and life-changing,” not only for the crash victims themselves but also their families, who are left to help those injured in their recovery.

Too many distractions inside vehicles: expert

Brian Patterson, president and CEO of the Ontario Safety League, said he believes distracted driving is a major problem. The league is a traffic safety organization that provides the public with safety information and programs.

“What we’re really seeing is bad driving habits, particularly distracted drivers who are putting everybody at risk while they’re exceeding the speed limit, trying to change the channel and have a zoom call with their staff while driving,” Patterson said.

“Nobody intended that to be in the vehicle, whether it was 15 years ago or 30 years ago. When you’re in the vehicle, your primary responsibility is to drive and drive safely,” he added.

“We’ve turned the interior of a car into an entertainment centre.”

Drivers have invited outside distractions into their vehicles that he says are just not safe.

With the long weekend coming up, the OPP said it will be looking out for distracted drivers and anyone else not following the rules of the road.

This week, from May 14 to 20, is also Canada Road Safety Week, which is led by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.

The OPP said it will join police services across the country to target behaviours that place drivers, passengers and other road users at risk. 

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