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Soaring rate of road deaths due to drinking, shunning seatbelts

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Statistics released by MPI on Wednesday indicate that 2016 was the deadliest year on Manitoba roads since 2006.</p>

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Statistics released by MPI on Wednesday indicate that 2016 was the deadliest year on Manitoba roads since 2006.

Whether its because of pounding back too many beers before jumping in a vehicle or not putting on a seatbelt when getting behind the wheel, more Manitobans are dying on the province's streets and highways.

Statistics released by Manitoba Public Insurance on Wednesday confirm that 2016 was the deadliest year on the province's roads since 2006.

The statistics compiled by MPI show that deaths due to drunk driving or not using seatbelts have almost doubled in a single year in Manitoba.

Forty-one of the province's 112 road-related fatalities last year are being blamed on impaired driving - and that's a statistic almost 100 per cent higher than in 2015.

And another 16 fatalities -- a more than 100 per cent jump from the year before -- are due to not putting on a seatbelt.

Ward Keith, MPI's vice-president business development and communications, said with a total of 112 road-related fatalities in 101 collisions, up 37 per cent from the number of fatalities the year before, the numbers are both a "challenge and a concern.

"It's not just the numbers. The reality is the last time we had more than 100 killed was in 2006 when there were 119. It hasn't been as high as 112 in the last decade.

"I hope this is an anomaly. I hope it isn't a trend. But this is concerning."

Keith said he doesn't understand the high no-seatbelt statistic because, for most people, their use is almost automatic.

"Ninety-five per cent is the seatbelt wearing rate - almost everybody wears it - but then 30 to 45 per cent of fatalities are people not wearing seatbelts.

"It should be a reminder for everybody to wear seatbelts at all times."

Keith said speed is also a factor, accounting for at least 29 of the fatalities, but that doesn't necessarily always mean someone died speeding way above the speed limit.

"Speed isn't just going over the posted limit, but it is also driving too fast for conditions," he said.

"Overall, what it tells us is in so many of these cases these fatalities could be prevented. It's sad, that's what it is."

The province's Crown Services Minister Ron Schuler said in a statement that "2016 was a tragic year for road fatalities in Manitoba.

"Our sincere condolences go out to the families and friends of the 112 Manitobans who lost their lives in roadway crashes. These terrible outcomes must serve as a reminder to all Manitobans to drive safely in 2017."

Keith said there are things Manitoba drivers can do to reduce their risk of becoming a fatality statistic including having a plan to take a cab home or pick a designated driver before you go out to drink, pull over and stop before you text, don't get into a vehicle with an intoxicated driver, drive to road and weather conditions, and buckle up no matter where in the vehicle you are sitting or how long or short the trip will be.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Read more by Kevin Rollason.

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History

Updated on Wednesday, January 11, 2017 at 8:31 PM CST: fixes typo in headline.

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