Being a pedestrian can be risky in any city, but Toronto residents take their lives into their hands every time they step out onto the streets.
According to statistics, six pedestrians are injured or killed every day in our fair city. Our pedestrian accident rate is on the rise, leaving residents to fear setting foot outdoors. At a time when most major
cities’ pedestrian accident rates are plummeting, why are Toronto’s getting worse?
Common Misconceptions About Causes of Pedestrian Accidents
Whenever there is a problem, you will find someone with an opinion about what caused it. These opinions can be a useful starting point in determining the actual cause, but all too often people accept
them as fact, without finding out the truth.
Data from actual accidents shows that the following popular ideas are actually misconceptions:
- Bad weather is a main cause of pedestrian accidents in Toronto. While this may seem like an easy correlation, statistics prove otherwise. In fact, the vast majority of pedestrian accidents
occurred when the weather was clear, and the roads were dry.
- Pedestrians are always to blame for not crossing in crosswalks. Although crossing outside of a crosswalk has been cited as a contributor to pedestrian accidents, most accidents occur at
intersections. Of the pedestrians crossing outside of crosswalks, many were actually crossing legally. Toronto’s Municipal Code states that where there is no crossing nearby (generally within
30 metres), pedestrians may legally cross mid-block as long as they yield to road traffic. This is because the city does not provide crosswalks at regular intervals, even along the most
dangerous routes., which is hazardous when the pedestrians have wide roads to cross. Regardless of the pedestrian’s actions, drivers are required to take all due care to avoid a
- Distracted pedestrians are a major cause of pedestrian accidents. Although we’ve all seen people walking while texting or looking at their smartphones, pedestrian distractions were not
determined to be a factor in the vast majority of accidents.
- Pedestrian accidents are more common at night. While pedestrians are certainly harder to see after dark, this is not a factor in the majority of collisions. Most pedestrian accidents occur
during the day in Toronto.
- Pedestrians are usually the ones at fault in an accident. Although some reckless pedestrians may attract attention, pedestrians were found to have the right of way in the majority of
accidents where they were involved.
What Makes Being a Pedestrian in Toronto so Dangerous?
Accidents can really happen anytime, anywhere, but statistics show that more pedestrian accidents seem to coincide with certain conditions, such as:
- Shorter days. Accidents start to increase as the days get shorter, up until early December when the rates begin to fall again. Experts believe that the reduced visibility at earlier times may contribute to the higher rate, until the temperatures get low enough to turn many pedestrians to alternative forms of travel.
- Rush hour. Having a higher volume of traffic on the road, with people hurrying to get to and from work, resulted in more collisions involving pedestrians than other times.
- Senior citizen pedestrians. Although senior citizens were not the group most frequently involved in pedestrian accidents, these older members of the population were more likely to be involved in fatal pedestrian accidents than any other group. In fact, seniors accounted for 50% of all fatalities from pedestrian accidents. This may be because the elderly are much more likely to suffer complications from their injuries and be unable to recover.
- Male drivers. Men were found to be the drivers in 72% of accidents involving pedestrians in Toronto. This may be because women tend to be more cautious drivers than men, or perhaps because there are more men driving on the Toronto roads than women. Without additional data, it’s impossible to know for certain why this is.
- Arterial roads. More accidents occurred on arterial roads than other types, and small wonder. Our arterial roads have become commuter highways, with cars passing each other to get ahead and long distances between crosswalks. Pedestrians often gather on medians, waiting for a gap in traffic to cross. The extra-wide roads, paired with drivers who exceed the speed limit, make it difficult for all but the most agile of pedestrians to get to the other side safely.
What About Vision Zero?
Because this problem has been around for a very long while, people looked to the government to intervene. The proposed solution, called Vision Zero, was inspired by a Swedish plan of the same name which seemed to be very successful in reducing pedestrian deaths. Versions of the Vision Zero plan have been implemented in 30 North American cities.
Toronto calls Vision Zero
a comprehensive five-year (2017-2021) action plan focused on reducing traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries on Toronto’s streets.
Toronto’s Vision Zero plan adopted a series of initiatives intended to:
- improve safety across the city
- focusing on locations where improvements are most needed
- address safety for the most vulnerable users of the transportation system:
- school children
- older adults
- also focus on:
- aggressive driving
- distracted driving
- safety for motorcyclists
Why Vision Zero Isn’t Stopping Pedestrian Accidents in Toronto
Although this sounds like a great plan, pedestrian accidents have increased since the time of its inception. Critics have different opinions and there is no unanimous view of why our version of Vision
Zero isn’t working as expected. Some factors include:
- City Layout. Our city layout did not properly anticipate the effect of having such a high volume of cars passing through. The 70,000 single-family homes on Toronto’s outer ring were built
between 1954 and 1964, sending traffic out to the outer arterial roads. Today, Toronto motorists treat these arterial roads as commuter highways, weaving out of turning lanes as they
rush ahead. Pedestrians often cross in the middle of the road, as crosswalks often have hundreds of meters between them.
- Lack of budget. Although we want to reduce pedestrian accidents in Toronto, we haven’t put our money where our mouths are. For a comparison, Toronto’s Vision Zero budget of $34 per
capita was miniscule next to New York’s $244 per capita Vision Zero budget.
- Half Measures. Linked to lack of budget, the Toronto Zero Vision plan is limited in its scope. In its first year, the city added 32 new crosswalks, installed 134 red-light cameras, added 32 safety zones near schools and retirement homes, increased the length of time for pedestrians to cross at 30 intersections, and lowered the speed limits on 54 roads that had the highest numbers of
pedestrians killed or seriously injured. While this may seem like a lot, these measures are easy fixes, a small fraction of what is being enacted in other cities, and not nearly enough to make a
meaningful difference to our public safety.
- Bureaucratic Gridlock. Suburban councilors often have different priorities than their downtown counterparts. While downtown leaders typically support measures to improve city design and
infrastructure, suburban leaders often vote down such measures, even when the proposed changes will happen outside of their jurisdictions. With two sides at odds with each other, it is difficult to make any significant changes.
- Failure to Encourage Walking and Alternative Transportation. There is safety in numbers. The more people engage in walking and alternate transportation, the safer it becomes. The Toronto
Vision Zero concept focus on easy changes. Measures such as additional crosswalks, lowered speed limits and longer crossing times are helpful, but lack the impact that would come from more committed change, such as improved design measures that would separate walkers and cyclists from motor vehicles.
What Should I Do if I’ve Been Injured, or if My Loved One Was Killed in a Toronto Pedestrian Accident?
Toronto pedestrian accidents can be devastating. It’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible after the accident, even if you don’t feel that your injuries are serious. When you are struck by an automobile, a great deal of force is quickly transferred from the vehicle to your body. The full extent of your injuries may not be obvious until much later, but it’s best to act soon, because your body is best able to heal in the months after the accident. The right treatment at the right time will ensure that your body heals correctly, with the greatest range of motion possible.
Once you’ve seen your doctor, it’s a good idea to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. Without the help of a lawyer, it may be difficult to get the care that you need in order to make the best recovery possible.
If you’ve lost a loved one in a pedestrian accident, your attorney can make sure that you get the compensation that you deserve to cover the expenses that you face now and will face in the future.
How Do I Find the Best Toronto Personal Injury Lawyer?
At Claim Accident Services, matching you with the lawyer that best fits your needs is what we do best. We take the time to listen to the details of your accident and connect you with the right lawyer for your
Call us today to find out how we can help put you on the road to recovery.