Quebec releases new road safety plan, includes higher fines for drivers

MONTREAL — Quebec has released a new plan to curb the number of collisions on its roads, including higher fines to deter dangerous driving.

Transport Minister Geneviève Guilbault presented the five-year plan on Tuesday, outlining 27 initiatives and regulatory changes in pursuit of Vision Zero, an international policy approach that aims to eliminate road deaths and serious injuries.

Quebec recorded 392 fatalities and 1,275 serious injuries on its roads in 2022.

The new plan includes higher financial penalties and more demerit points for drivers who commit infractions in school and construction zones.

It also calls for a 30-kilometre-per-hour speed limit in school zones, a deployment of speed cameras and funding to better secure pedestrian and bike paths.

Though sweeping, the 42-page plan published Tuesday by the Transport Department is so far just a list of objectives, many of which will require the government to draft new laws and regulations. It doesn't specify, for example, how much fines will increase for unsafe behaviour on the roads.

Guilbault said at a press conference that a bill to implement many of the proposed measures is coming this fall.

Road safety advocates welcomed the new scheme on Tuesday, but pressed the government to follow through on some of its goals.

Magali Bebronne, an administrator for cyclist advocacy group Vélo Québec, praised the government's plans to increase funding for street renovations around schools and to review its norms governing provincial route configuration to better integrate the needs of cyclists and pedestrians.

She cautioned, however, that the road to some of these changes may be long.

"There are some elements that we're going to want to monitor more closely because there are a lot of things that are going to start with a study or calls for projects, things like that, and we're going to want to monitor them over the long term," she told The Canadian Press.

For Martin L’Abbée, a representative of United Steelworkers — a union that includes about 1,000 Quebec traffic control workers — the new safety plan "is a step in the right direction" to better protect labourers.

In addition to introducing higher fines for road rule violations in construction zones, the government plans to extend a ban on the use of human traffic controllers to include roads with a posted speed of at least 70 km/h.

It further pledged to designate a road worker safety awareness week and to develop a "communication strategy to raise road users' awareness of the need to respect traffic signallers."

"There are some nice things" in the five-year plan, L’Abbée said in a phone interview, "but they need to be implemented as soon as possible."

"We understand the bill process. Dealing with the bill, adopting the law, the regulations to put certain new measures into effect, that takes time. But it must be a priority for the government."

-With files from Frédéric Lacroix-Couture in Montreal.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 22, 2023.

Thomas MacDonald, The Canadian Press