New Road Safety Plan is a Step in the Right Direction

McLeish Orlando partner Salvatore Shaw, reacts to Toronto Mayor John Tory’s plan for increased road safety as outlined in the Globe and Mail article, Fatal Crossings: Where and how Pedestrians die in Toronto.

The Mayor of Toronto, John Tory, is spearheading a new road safety plan designed to reduce serious motor vehicle collisions involving pedestrians, and protect some of the most vulnerable road users in our society, children. On June 13, 2016, Tory announced an initiative that would dedicate $68.1 million to road safety over the next 5 years, which is a $40 million increase from the roughly $28 million that is currently allocated. This initiative is a direct response to the unnerving trend of increasing pedestrian deaths.

In Toronto, pedestrian deaths have risen by 15% over the last 5 years compared to the previous 5 years.   According to Parachute Canada, “a child pedestrian is killed or injured every three hours. On average, 30 young pedestrians are killed in Canada each year and 2,412 are injured. The most dangerous time is between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. when students are heading home from school and drivers are returning home from work.” Between 2011 and 2015, 34 children were killed or seriously injured commuting to or from school in Toronto. Chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat stated, “These are deaths we can prevent… A critical part of modern city-building is about keeping people safe.” Some of the key policies the road safety plan calls for include reduced speed limits in many downtown locations, an increase in educational and media campaigns, and if approved by the province, automatic enforcement in school zones through the use of remote cameras to catch speeding drivers.

Mayor Tory described the new strategy as a “smart, collaborative approach to reducing injuries and fatalities on our streets.” The reported plan emphasizes a goal for a 20% reduction in pedestrian fatalities. This can be compared to similar plans in cities such as Vancouver and New York which have implemented sweeping policies aimed to eliminate these fatalities entirely. Critics were quick to point out the plan’s deficiencies, specifically, the notion that 80% of deaths are “okay.” Shortly after the Mayor’s press conference releasing the details, Mayor Tory reversed his position on the target rate. A spokeswoman for the Mayor confirmed that he would support a proposed motion, by Councillor Jaye Robinson, to change the target to zero people killed or serious injured within five years.

While Mayor Tory’s plan remains controversial and highly criticized, it appears to be a step in the right direction and one that makes child safety a priority. These changes are important to protect young children as they have not developed the cognitive and physical skills to deal with the challenges of motor vehicle traffic. Children between 10 and 14 years old have the highest incident of pedestrian-related injuries, while children between 5 and 14 years old are at the greatest risk for pedestrian-related death. It is important that parents or caregivers educate their children on road safety to reduce these associated risks.

Globe and Mail Article – June 15, 2016

Fatal Crossings: Where and how Pedestrians die in Toronto

“Every four hours, a pedestrian is hit in Toronto. On average this year, someone dies every 10 days.
A total of 163 pedestrians, more people than can fit in a streetcar, have been killed since 2011. It’s a toll that surpasses fatal shootings, yet generates a small fraction of the community concern and political reaction.

“If you compare it to how much attention is paid each year to the number of people who are killed by homicide, or a number of other things, it has received less attention than it should, especially given the magnitude of the number,” Toronto Mayor John Tory said.

And it’s getting worse. Over the past five years, the number of deaths has leaped 15 per cent compared with the previous five years. With an aging population, that upward trend threatens to continue, making pedestrian safety one of the key public issues facing the city of Toronto.

“These are deaths we can prevent,” chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat said. “A critical part of modern city-building is about keeping people safe.”

The Globe and Mail analyzed more than five years of Toronto Police Service data on pedestrian fatalities to determine where and how people die in the city. Trends quickly emerged: The victims are disproportionately over 65 and hit by a larger vehicle. They are usually walking across an arterial road, often in the suburbs and typically at a spot without a traffic signal or crosswalk.

Toronto is in the final stages of preparing a road-safety plan, with a greater emphasis on vulnerable road users. But protecting pedestrians will require a fundamental shift in mindset, one that challenges the car culture and the unspoken attitude that traffic fatalities are an unavoidable reality of urban living.

Other cities are already leading the way. In addition to educating pedestrians – who are usually responsible for a small minority of the fatal collisions – they are creating transportation systems that protect everyone, so that the inevitable mistakes or recklessness do not cause a death. This usually includes stricter enforcement of driving laws, re-engineered roads and often a broad-based reduction in speeds, which the evidence shows is a key way to protect pedestrians.

Toronto, by contrast, is expected to focus its efforts at spots that have proved dangerous, a reactive approach that effectively means that pedestrians have to die or be seriously injured before drivers will be made to slow down.

“You have to raise the needs of the unprotected road users,” said Matts-Ake Belin, a traffic safety strategist with the Swedish Transport Administration and one of the key architects of that country’s much-emulated Vision Zero road-safety program, which has helped slash pedestrian deaths by nearly one-third in Stockholm since 2000.

“You have to put them higher up and their needs higher up in the discussion about how you want to plan your urban environment.” “

As seen in the Globe and Mail:

Colleen McHugh


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