In 2016, the City of Toronto approved its Vision Zero Road Safety Plan, which is a five-year plan aimed at reducing injuries and death on Toronto streets. The plan focuses particularly on the safety of vulnerable road users, namely pedestrians, cyclists, the elderly and school children. The plan also hopes to take actions that will reduce aggressive and distracted driving, which are among the driving behaviours that create the greatest danger for pedestrians and cyclists.
At this point, it’s difficult to say whether the actions taken by the City of Toronto for the Vision Zero Plan have been successful or have had any measurable effect. In December 2018, the Star reported that the number of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities in Toronto continued to be at its highest point in recorded history. The Star article also reported that, within a six-hour period shortly before the story was written, three pedestrians were fatally injured in the GTA, one in Scarborough and two in Mississauga.
The City of Hamilton is another municipality with a Vision Zero plan to reduce cycling and pedestrian fatalities, but a Feb 4, 2019 CBC article reported that critics say that Hamilton's plan focuses too much on ‘fluff’ and flimsy initiatives such as public education and flashing speed limit signs and not enough on changing infrastructure such as roads (including advance signals for bikes and pedestrians, and reduced speed limits).
Pedestrians are being struck and injured not only while crossing the street. Pedestrians have been hit while standing in front of their parked car, in parking lots, at bus stops, on private property and in other locations where pedestrians should reasonably expect to feel safe. One particularly disturbing case in late 2018 involved a 59-year-old woman who was killed at a bus stop when, without warning, an SUV drove onto the sidewalk. The SUV also struck and seriously injured a 31-year-old man before finally coming to a stop.
Certainly, there are many circumstances where a pedestrian could never have foreseen a potential danger and had no opportunity to avoid injury, such as when a dangerous driver drives his/her vehicle onto the sidewalk where they’re standing or walking. With respect to dangerous driving actions, pedestrians are forced to rely on traffic laws, penalties and fines, policing, and City infrastructure (such as designated walking/biking paths) to reduce the incidence and likelihood of pedestrian injuries and fatalities. And, the higher penalties and fines for distracted driving that were enacted in Ontario effective January 1st will hopefully have some effect in reducing all types of accidents.
There are some safe practices that can reduce our risk of being struck by a motor vehicle.
Safety tips for pedestrians.
- Always cross at an intersection and if possible, at a traffic light or crosswalk. A disproportionate number of pedestrian accidents occur when pedestrians cross in the middle of a block.
- Watch out for cars turning at the intersection
- Make eye contact to ensure that the driver sees you before crossing.
- Begin to cross only after traffic has fully stopped.
- Watch for cars coming out of a driveway or parking lot
- At night, wear bright or reflective clothing
- Don’t cross at a red light or when the ‘Do not walk’ signal is flashing
- Where there are no sidewalks, walk against traffic and as far off the road as possible
Unfortunately, despite best attempts to be safe while walking, pedestrians will continue to be injured and killed as long as drivers don’t actively monitor for pedestrians, drive at a safe speed, and yield for pedestrians who are crossing the street. If you or a loved one were seriously injured, talk to a pedestrian accident lawyer at Stevenson Whelton MacDonald & Swan to learn about your legal rights and whether you have a strong claim for compensation.