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TIRF reports on the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Travel Behaviour & Road Safety

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Ottawa, Ontario – November 12, 2020 – The Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) announces the release of a new fact sheet, Road Safety Monitor 2020: The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Travel Behaviour & Road Safety, a summary based upon data from the Road Safety Monitor (RSM) conducted by TIRF, with sponsorship by Beer Canada, Desjardins and Labatt. The results reveal a majority of respondents reported their driving behaviour did not change and a small proportion indicated they were less likely to engage in dangerous driving behaviours. Results also revealed a shift in the preferred method of travel during the pandemic; early findings suggest this may be permanent for some Canadians.

“While these results are encouraging, it’s also important to acknowledge that a concerning proportion of respondents indicated they were more likely to engage in risky or dangerous driving behaviours during the pandemic, as compared to before COVID-19,” cautions Ward Vanlaar, Chief Operating Officer of TIRF.

Download fact sheet in French

Compared to before the pandemic, 5.5% of Canadians admitted they were more likely to excessively exceed the posted speed limit during COVID-19 which translates to approximately 1.46 million licensed drivers. In addition, 4.2% said they were more likely to be driving distracted, 9.1% of respondents reported they had more difficulty focusing while driving, 2.4% admitted they were more likely to drive within two hours of consuming alcohol, and, 2.2% were more likely to drive within two hours of using drugs. While these percentages may reveal only a minority of Canadians engage in these dangerous driving behaviours, they still represent well over a million drivers.

“The results from TIRF are a reminder that drivers must remain vigilant during the pandemic,” says Valérie Lavoie, President & COO of Desjardins General Insurance Group. “Injuries and fatalities on our road are preventable, so it is important to remind drivers of the dangerous habits that can put themselves and others at risk.”

Almost 1 in 4 Canadians (23.3%) indicated their preferred method of travel changed during the pandemic. Prior to COVID-19, personal vehicle use was the main preferred method of travel of respondents (42.2%), followed by public transit (41.2%). During the pandemic, a significant increase to 69.9% in those using a personal vehicle was observed while there was a significant decrease to 4.4% in respondents who reported using public transit.

“Despite historically preferred methods of travel prior to COVID-19, a significant increase of between 120% and 150% in the use of active transportation such as walking and cycling was observed during the pandemic,” noted Heather Woods-Fry, TIRF Senior Research Scientist. “Even more encouraging is almost 1 in 3 respondents (30%) indicated this change in preferred travel method was likely to be permanent.”

Although the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on road safety is presently unknown, these data help illustrate the self-reported behaviours of Canadian drivers during COVID-19 restrictions, and can help complement other sources of data such as crash and fatality data. A more in-depth understanding of how the pandemic has affected road safety, and how a gradual re-opening and possible subsequent restrictions may affect driver behaviours is still to be determined. As such, close attention must be paid to these indicators to determine if there is a continued effect of pandemic restrictions on road safety.

Download Fact Sheet in English and French:

About the poll:
These results are based on the RSM, an annual public opinion poll developed and conducted by TIRF. A total of 1,500 Canadians completed the poll in September 2020. Results can be considered accurate within plus or minus 2.5%, 19 times out of 20. The majority of the questions were answered using a scale from one to six where six indicated high agreement, concern, or support and one indicated low agreement, concern or support.

About the Traffic Injury Research Foundation:
The mission of the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) is to reduce traffic-related deaths and injuries. TIRF is an independent, charitable road safety research institute. Since its inception in 1964, TIRF has become internationally recognized for its accomplishments in identifying the causes of road crashes and developing programs and policies to address them effectively.

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For more information, please contact:

Karen Bowman
Director, Marketing and Communications
Traffic Injury Research Foundation
613-238-5235 (office)
1-877-238-5235 (toll-free)
250-797-0833 (direct)
613-238-5292 (fax) /

David Bird
Website administrator for

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