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Motor Vehicle Fatalities on the Rise in Canada – 2024 Data Study

Overall Findings:

  • After three decades of decline, the number of motor vehicle fatalities in Canada went up by 6% in 2022
  • The number of fatalities is estimated to have reached 2,004 in 2023 and is projected to increase to 2,045 (+2% YoY) by the end of 2024
  • Rural car crashes represent only 25% of all traffic collisions in Canada but account for 54% of all fatalities

Local Insights:

  • Manitoba (+22%) and Newfoundland & Labrador (+16%) have seen significant year-over-year increases in road fatalities from 2022 to 2023
  • Nova Scotia (-5%) and Saskatchewan (-5%) saw their road deaths decline in the same period
  • New Brunswick (8.2) and Manitoba (7.1) had the highest rate of motor vehicle fatalities per 100,000 people
  • Among cities, Edmonton, AB (+86%) and Calgary, AB (+26%) had the biggest year-over-year increase in road deaths in 2023
  • Quebec City, QC (2.6) and Edmonton, AB (2.3) are the cities with the highest rate of motor vehicle fatalities per 100,000 residents

Much like in most other developed nations, according to the OECD data, the number of fatal collisions and fatalities in Canada over the last three decades has been declining. Initiatives such as Canada’’’s Road Safety Strategy 2025 and increased investment in road safety projects supported this positive trend.

During the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020-2021 when traffic volumes dropped across the country, road casualties dropped even further to the historic low of 4.6 fatalities per 100,000 people.

Since then, however, as driving patterns returned to normal, there’s been a worrying resurgence in both road collisions and fatality. In 2022, the most recent year for which the data is available, the number of people who lost their lives on Canadian roads was 1931 – the highest seen since 2013.

Our findings based on 2023 data for the 10 provinces of Canada suggest that the total number of motor vehicle fatalities exceeded 2,000 last year and is likely to remain just as high in 2024.

Armed with the most recent statistics, we examine this concerning trend in Canadian road safety. Read on to see how the recent rise in motor vehicle fatalities compares to previous years,and find out which provinces and cities are seeing the biggest spikes in road deaths.

Reversing the Trend: Motor Vehicle Fatalities on The Rise in Recent Years

Even with the most recent uptick in road fatalities, the overarching trend in Canadian road safety is overwhelmingly positive. Based on the official statistics from Transport Canada, the number of fatalities on Canadian roads in the last 30 years has been decreasing by 2% annually.


Road Fatalities on the Rise in Recent Years

In 2022 – the latest year for which the data is available – there were 1,931 fatalities which is 47% fewer than Canada saw in 1993 (3,122).

At the same time, it’s worth acknowledging that 1931 fatalities were not only 6% more than the year prior but also the second-highest figure in a decade.

After 2020 and 2021, which had lower rates of collisions and road deaths due to the pandemic and the associated shutdowns, some increase was to be expected. At the same time, a 6% increase is among the highest year-over-year jumps in motor vehicle fatalities that Canada has seen in 20 years.

Road Deaths Rising for Two Years Straight

The pandemic and the associated decline in driving may be at fault here, but it is worth pointing out that it’s the first time that road deaths have been increasing for two years straight in the 30 years for which the statistics are published.

Dangerous Trend: Road Fatalities On the Rise in 6 out of 10 Largest Provinces

At the province level, the picture is somewhat more mixed, as some provinces are seeing motor vehicle fatalities spike, while in others, their number appears to be declining. That said, the number of road deaths is increasing in six out of 10 provinces for which we have the data.

Most notably, road fatalities are on the rise in Manitoba. According to the data from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, there were 104 fatalities in the province in 2023. This represents a 22% year-over-year increase and is the highest number in a decade.

Ontario is another province seeing a rise in road deaths. Here, 10% more people were killed in accidents and crashes in 2023, compared to 2022 to the highest tally in over 15 years, as per the local media reports.

Motor vehicle fatalities are also up in British Columbia, but here the uptick is more modest at 3% year-over-year in 2023. That said, based on the BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit figures, road casualties reaching above 300 is something the province hasn’t seen since 2010.

Motor vehicle fatalities in Canadian Provinces in 2023*

However, a few provinces buck the trend. In Quebec, for example, the number of fatalities dropped by 6% in 2023 after a post-COVID spike in 2022.

Another province where road casualties are reducing is Nova Scotia (-5%), where 55 were registered in 2023. It’s the lowest tally the province has seen for five years and a small but notable reduction on the previous year’s total of 58.

Similarly, in Saskatchewan (-5%), the number of people who died in motor vehicle crashes has been declining for two years straight. With 75 such fatalities in 2023 recorded by the local Royal Mounted Police, it’s the second-lowest figure in six years.

With all these recent developments, how do provinces compare on their motor vehicle fatality rate?

At the top of this unfortunate ranking are New Brunswick and Manitoba, with 8.2 and 7.1 motor vehicle fatalities per 100,000 residents. Both these provinces have seen the number of fatalities increase in the last year.

New Brunswick and Manitoba Have the Highest Road Fatality Rates

Despite having the largest raw count of fatalities, Ontario (4.1) and Quebec (4.2) are relatively the safest, with the rate of motor vehicle fatalities per 100,000 just above 4.

Safer in Cities: Canada’s Biggest Cities See Road Fatalities Decline in 2023

In contrast to its provinces, most of Canada’s biggest cities are showing the reverse trend in motor vehicle fatalities, as evidenced by local police and media reports.

Most interestingly, all four cities in Ontario—Toronto (-10 %), Ottawa (-15 %), Mississauga (-19 %), and Hamilton (-38%)—had fewer lives lost on their roads in 2023 compared to the year prior.

Winnipeg, the capital of Manitoba, bucked the provincial trend. While 22% more people were killed in traffic collisions in 2023 than in 2022 in the province, fatalities in the capital city only reached 12 last year, amounting to an annual decrease of 43%.

Quebec City, its counterpart from Quebec, also saw a reduction in road deaths in 2023, albeit a smaller one of just 5%.

Alberta Cities See Biggest Spikes in Motor Vehicle Fatalities

It’s worth noting that all these cities are officially part of Vision Zero – a traffic safety initiative aimed at reducing road fatalities through better policies, traffic enforcement, and investment in safer road infrastructure.

Conversely, the tally of road fatalities in Alberta’s two largest cities – Calgary (+26%) and Edmonton (+86%) – increased year-over-year in 2023.

In both Vancouver and Montreal, the number of people who died in a car crash was 7% higher in 2023 than in 2022.

If we consider these most recent fatality numbers in terms of the cities’ population, the following picture emerges.

Despite a significant increase in road fatalities, Edmonton, AB (2.3) is behind Quebec City, QC (2.6) in terms of the number of such fatalities per 100,000 people.

Hamilton, ON and Mississauga, ON are two other cities among these 10, where the fatality rate per 100,000 residents is 2 or above.

Road Fatality Rates Highest in Quebec City and Edmonton

Canada’s most populated cities, Montreal, QC (0.8), Toronto, ON (0.8), and Vancouver, BC (0.7), are towards the bottom of the chart, with their large populations likely outweighing their significant motor vehicle fatality count.

Deadlier in the Country: Rural Crashes Three Times More Fatal than Urban

One explanation for cities having a lower rate of motor vehicle fatalities is that urban crashes, although larger in number, are far less deadly than rural collisions, i.e. those taking place on highways and rural roads.

As studies from both Canada and the United States indicate, rural crashes were more likely to be associated with risky driver behaviors, such as speeding, not wearing a seat belt, driving under the influence, and distracted driving.

According to the most recent national statistics, although there were three times as many urban collisions (65,861) as rural ones (23,230), they were significantly less likely to be fatal. If only 1.2% of urban collisions were fatal, the rate for rural crashes was 3.2 times higher, as 3.9% of them led to a fatality.

Rural Crashes Three Times More Fatal

That’s likely why, despite accounting for only 26% of all motor vehicle collisions, rural collisions accounted for 53% of all fatalities.

Pessimistic Projections: Motor Vehicle Fatalities to Stay High in 2023 – 2024

The most recent official data on road fatalities in Canada covers the year 2022, when their tally reached 1,931.

Using data from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, local police forces, and local media reports, we estimated the number of people who died in fatal collisions in 2023 for nine out of 10 provinces.

As many as 1,678 people lost lives on the roads in these provinces in 2023, which is 4% more than in 2022, when that total was 1617.

Going by these figures, the total number of motor vehicle fatalities in Canada in 2023 is estimated at 2,004 – also 4% higher than the year before and the first time it exceeded 2,000 since 2012.

Unfortunate Trend Likely to Continue

Factoring in this estimate into the last thirty years’ worth of fatal collision data, should the current trends continue, the number of motor vehicle fatalities is projected to reach 2,045 by the end of 2024.

That would represent a minor, 2% year-over-year increase, but be an increase nonetheless.

Sources and Methodology

Motor vehicle fatality data was sourced from the Canadian Motor Vehicle Traffic Collision Statistics series, the Royal Mounted Police of Canada and their provincial forces, local police statistics, and reports in the media citing official police statistics.

These sources include but aren’t limited to:

Population estimates for cities and provinces were taken from Statistics Canada.

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