Road Safety

Road safety continues to be a top concern amongst residents of Ottawa after reviewing the Public Opinion Research Data from 2018. It also remains a top priority for the OPS, too.

In our ongoing effort to ensure the safety of all road users, the OPS introduced a dedicated traffic analyst to triage all incoming data, including reports made by residents, information  collected from city councillor speed boards, and data analysis from fatal collisions. By coordinating the information from all data sources, our Traffic Services team was then deployed for proactive evidence-led measures. This collective effort ensures that we are targeting problem areas of the city while maximizing the use of our resources to enhance the safety of our roads. This coordinated initiative will be expanded beyond Traffic Services and into routine frontline patrol activity starting in 2019.

Our partnership with Safer Roads Ottawa (SRO) continues to help with education initiatives across the city. In 2016 and 2017, SRO purchased two Automatic License Plate Readers (ALPR) for the OPS, which helped our officers identify vehicles that are stolen, persons wanted on warrants, suspended licences or prohibited drivers.  ALPRs can collect information on hundreds of plates per hour and help our officers ensure that those driving on our city streets are compliant. In 2018, after seeing how effective the device was for proactive police work, SRO purchased an additional two ALPR’s for the OPS, greatly expanding our capacity to safeguard our roads. Over the summer months, 79 officers were given ALPR training, with one ALPR permanently assigned with Huntmar Station patrol and the second at St. Joseph Boulevard Station.

SRO also partnered with the OPS to help educate the public on bicycle safety and drivers in the city. As of January 2016, a new law mandated a 1-metre distance for vehicles when passing a cyclist. Our Traffic Services Team, along with SRO, created a robust education campaign with the use of a 1-metre sonar device. One of our officers, equipped with the sonar device, would notify another officer about a driver passing too closely. That driver would then be pulled over and provided information about the new laws in an effort to promote a greater awareness and enhance road safety for all users. Our Bikes and Beats officers were also an effective method of enforcement in Ottawa’s downtown corridor, assisting in getting the message out about distracted driving.

The Traffic Services team was also active with Leave the Phone Alone (LTPA) promotion, visiting area schools and community groups in an effort to educate about the dangers of distracted driving. According to statistical reports, distracted driving has overtaken impaired driving as the number one cause of fatal accidents on our roads. Our partnerships with SRO, Bell Media, the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA), Ottawa’s school boards and the Ottawa RedBlacks helped to ensure the message got out to both area schoolkids and their families.

In 2018, our officers and partners made LTPA presentations to:

  • The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO)
  • St. Mark’s High School student-led initiative
  •  University of Ottawa
  •  Algonquin College
  • Holmes Heating, to educate employee drivers
  • Lester B. PEARSON High School
  • Osgoode High School
  • Prince of Peace Catholic School
  • Ottawa Safety Council
  •  Article and YouTube educational video presented in the Ottawa Citizen
  • CTV Morning Live interview with Henry Burris
  •  Several radio question & answer appearances
  •  Yearlong social media campaign
  • On foot projects: (Isabella/O’Connor Sts and Bank and Catherine Sts)
  • Plain Clothes Projects (Bank St in the Glebe)
  • Uniformed and plain clothes projects: including use of bicycles and school buses, spotting distracted drivers.

On December 18, 2018, changes to the Criminal Code of Canada allowed officers the ability to stop a vehicle for a roadside sobriety test, without the reasonable grounds requirement. This amendment to the law assisted officers in dealing with the newly introduced cannabis legalization, and 23 Drug Recognition Experts (DRE) were specially trained to identify someone impaired and subsequently provide expert testimony at court. This increased the total of certified DREs to 55 in 2018. An additional 100 officers were trained in Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST), bringing our total up to 321.

Additionally, our Traffic Services team expanded its scope on social media as a way to help educate residents on current initiatives, including monthly Selective Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP) measures. This personalized interaction helps to build goodwill, educate on road safety issues, and provide positive messaging in association with traffic enforcement initiatives. As the OPS starts to provide more and more of its officers cellphones, our Traffic Services team will continue to expand its social media footprint to help educate residents city-wide.


But it wasn’t just our city roads that saw proactive policing measures. Our Marine, Dive and Trails (MDT) unit worked with our Traffic Services team to help increase safety on both our city’s waterways over the summer, and park trails over the winter months.

In August, Operation Dry Water saw MDT out on our waterways, promoting sober boating use. As part of a national awareness campaign, our officers patrolled the Nation Capital’s canals and rivers, focusing on alcohol violations and increasing vessel checks. Additional signage was put up at area marinas and boating centres around the capital.

As Ottawa was deluged with snowfall after snowfall at the end of 2018, our MDT unit took to the city’s parks and trails in an effort to help reduce the number of accidents as a result of illegal trail activity and using a snowmobile while under the influence of alcohol.

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