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Transportation

Why Isn’t There a Canadian Traffic Safety Crisis?

As roads in the US get more dangerous, Canada’s traffic fatalities have been going down. These practices and policies help explain why. 

Traffic on the Gardiner Expressway into downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 

Traffic on the Gardiner Expressway into downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 

Photographer: Cole Burston/Bloomberg

While US road deaths are skyrocketing (including the fastest increase on record in 2021), virtually all other developed countries have seen a decline. In France, for example, traffic fatalities are now just a third of the US per capita rate. As Urban Institute researcher Yonah Freemark recently told me, 30 years ago the streets of France were more dangerous than those in the US, but “today the average French person is 40% safer than the average American.”

It might seem easy to dismiss transportation comparisons between the US and France, a country smaller than the state of Texas where many streets were designed centuries before the automobile arrived. But what about looking at a North American cousin — Canada, a sprawling, car-oriented nation whose cities are comparably young and similarly configured?