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February 2010
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Pedestrian Perils: An Unfortunate January in Toronto

Yesterday I almost became one of Toronto’s next pedestrian victim’s. At the intersection I was crossing there was an advanced green for the oncoming traffic. I waited until the advanced green ended, looked to see the walk signal, looked to see if there were any more cars coming and then proceeded forward. I looked down as I stepped off the curve and heard a ‘watchout’ and felt a hand grab my jacket. A car came from far back and was speeding through the intersection totally disobeying the fact that the advanced green had passed. But I had been saved by a friendly stranger. I will admit that I probably ‘zoned-out’ as I stepped off the curve and given what could have been very unfortunate, I would have been partly at fault.

Through the month of January Toronto was plagued by a string of tragic pedestrian deaths. In total there were 14 deaths in Toronto, some of them quite tragic. Between transport trucks, streetcars and busses the pedestrians stood no chance.

Who was to Blame?

The debate as to who was at fault in these accidents has been a topic of discussion in the media. Whether it is the cars or the pedestrians who are not paying attention is the question. But either way isn’t it both parties faults?

As a pedestrian I don’t think I’m would want to play chicken with a transport truck. Even a SmartCar!

In 2007 the City of Toronto did a study, The Pedestrian Collision Study. Here is a selection of the conclusions of the study:

  • 83% of pedestrian/motor vehicle collisions resulted in either minimal or minor injuries
  • 12% of pedestrian/motor vehicle collisions resulted in major injuries or fatalities
  • 50% of fatalities in pedestrian/motor vehicle collisions were seniors (aged 65+).
  • 72% of pedestrian/motor vehicle collisions involved male drivers versus 28% for female drivers.
  • Pedestrian/motor vehicle collisions occurred most during the autumn and winter seasons.
  • Pedestrian/motor vehicle collisions occurred more often in the downtown area.
  • Pedestrian/motor vehicle collisions occurred more often along arterial roads.
  • Pedestrian/motor vehicle collisions distributed as follow: at intersections (47%), at non-intersections (37%), and other/unknown (16%).

The City of Toronto did a similar bike-car collision study in 2006. The results can be found here.

What I was reminded of yesterday was does it really matter who is at fault? In the end the pedestrian ends up dead or seriously injured.

How Can we Prevent Future Deaths

  1. Alertness: Most importantly both drivers and pedestrians need to be more aware – pedestrian’s in particular. Again as a pedestrian if you play chicken with an automobile the automobile always wins
  2. Turning – Left or right, as drivers we should be more aware when turning. Right turns are often worse. On a red light drivers are only looking for on-coming traffic. When lights are green drivers often forget about pedestrians and rush to make the turn
  3. Updating Our Intersections: The ‘Scramble’ intersections of downtown Toronto are great, but we can make them even safer. In New Zealand and Japan pedestrians are only allowed to cross when all lights are red. In this manner cars and pedestrians are not competing entities
  4. Slow Down: the issue of decreasing speed limits in cities has been raised. Unofficially people in Toronto drive 15-20km/hr over the speed limit so decreasing the speed limit would give drivers more response time
  5. Txt Msgs, Email and iPods: Pedestrian’s cannot just walk in oblivion. Be aware of your surroundings and focus on the busy road around you, instead of the latest gadget.