‘A change in people’s behaviour’: Police chief believes pandemic anxiety impacting traffic fatalities

Data unveiled last week in a report at the Police Board meeting shows crashes and fatalities were way up in 2022 and Winnipeg’s police chief believes it could be linked to the pandemic.

In the report on March 10, Winnipeg police Chief Danny Smyth said police responded to more traffic fatalities than previous years.

In 2022, there were 41 investigated collisions, 28 of them were fatal. As well, 19 of those crashes involved pedestrians, 12 of which were fatal.

Smyth believes that anxiety brought on by the pandemic has impacted people on the road and in all facets of life.

“I’m seeing a lot of behaviour in general that we didn’t see prior to the pandemic,” said Smyth last Friday. “I don’t want to lay it all on the pandemic, but there’s a lot of anxiety, there’s a lot of anger out in the community and I think it manifests itself, you know, through crime rates, through traffic.”

Smyth said he can’t think of anything else that would impact the number of crashes and fatalities other than anxiety brought on by the pandemic.

The closest year to the 2022 numbers was in 2019, when there were 34 crashes, 16 of which were fatal. There were 22 pedestrians involved in those 34 crashes, 10 of which were fatal.

Crash statistics over the last five years show 2022 had the highest fatal crash total. The numbers are from a report submitted to the Police Board by Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth.

“There are a lot of angry and anxious people out there,” said Smyth. “We are seeing a change in people’s behaviour.”

In the report, Smyth noted the cost of the 28 fatalities could be around the same as a homicide investigation.

“So far this year, it would total an estimated cost of $6 million,” he said in the report.

The numbers in Winnipeg appear to align with numbers in the province as a whole.

In an email to CTV News Winnipeg, Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) said there were 90 fatal crashes in Manitoba in 2022.

“Over the last five years, the average number of fatalities in Manitoba has remained fairly consistent at approximately 78 individuals killed in collisions every year,” MPI said.

MPI added the 90 fatal crashes in Manitoba are in line with other jurisdictions in North America following the pandemic.

The city is looking at implementing slowing measures, such as 30 km/h speed limits through neighbourhoods. While Smyth said these are good measures to take, he said they won’t necessarily have an impact on the number of deadly crashes.

“Those aren’t the areas where we are seeing the collisions,” he said.

Smyth feels using automated radar is still the best way to get people to slow down.

“The cameras are there all the time. When people get stung with some of the fines, that changes behaviour,” said Smyth.

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