New road safety bill

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Tashi Farmilo
Local Journalism Initiative

QUÉBEC – To enhance road safety, Geneviève Guilbault, Quebec’s Deputy Premier and Minister of Transport and Sustainable Mobility, introduced a landmark bill at the National Assembly, December 8. The bill is an integral part of the Road Safety Action Plan (PASR) 2023-2028.

The proposed legislation includes several critical amendments to the Highway Safety Code. Notably, it sets a maximum speed limit of 30 km/h in school zones to protect vulnerable road users, particularly in areas where children are present. In addition, the bill seeks to enhance the use of technology through increased deployment of automated control devices, like photo radars, to enforce compliance, especially in school zones.

A significant aspect of the bill is the introduction of compulsory training for commercial vehicle licenses, specifically targeting heavy vehicles requiring a Class 1 license. This includes various types of heavy-duty trucks and road tractors.

The mandatory training for new candidates seeking a Class 1 license is a proactive measure to enhance the skills and safety awareness of commercial vehicle drivers. While heavy vehicles make up only 4% of traffic on Quebec roads, they are involved in 24% of fatal accidents. These fatalities have increased by more than 17% since 2021, according to SAAQ spokesperson Geneviève Côté.

By focusing on the types of vehicles that pose the greatest risk due to their size and weight, the legislation aims to reduce the likelihood of accidents, improve overall road safety, and reinforce the province’s commitment to aligning with the Canadian Safety Code’s standards (standard 16), ensuring a high level of training and competency among new drivers. The Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) will oversee the training programs.

However, current Class 1 license holders will not be subject to this new training requirement. The government is focusing on elevating the skills of new drivers from the outset of their careers. The government anticipates that the majority of Canadian administrations will implement similar mandatory training requirements by 2025. Quebec’s approach involves legislative changes followed by regulatory modifications, as outlined in Bill 48, to adjust the conditions for accessing Class 1 licenses.

The bill is part of a larger vision to transform Quebec’s roads into safer spaces. Over $180 million has been earmarked to implement PASR measures over the next five years. This comprehensive approach includes developing a safe network for all, preventing risky behaviors, innovating in research and technology, and communicating best practices in road safety.

Éric Ducharme, SAAQ president-director general, stated, “Legislation is an indispensable tool for inducing sustainable behavioral changes, especially when paired with awareness and control activities. The various measures will undoubtedly enhance the safety of road users significantly, improving our overall road safety record.”