No Deaths or Serious Injuries on Toronto Streets? Vision Zero Has its Work Cut Out

By Pace Law | August 13, 2019

What’s better than blanket rule-setting to prevent pedestrian accidents on Toronto’s streets? A data-driven, targeted approach, of course. Vision Zero, Ontario’s five-year program, which is aimed at bringing traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries to nought, is ambitious. This bold, multi-faceted approach can make Toronto’s streets not just safer – but make them feel saner too.

Vision Zero is making Toronto streets safer for the most vulnerable of road users – pedestrians.

This article, like Vision Zero is looking at reducing pedestrian accidents and improving safety. After all, pedestrians are the most vulnerable of road users.

toronto pedestrian accident

Toronto Police data shows the number of fatal and serious injury accidents (KSI) is falling – gradually.

Are you a pedestrian?

Vision Zero has an expansive list describing pedestrians. Essentially, people on foot, wheelchair users, mobility scooter riders and even those using hover boards are considered pedestrians. Are you a popular YouTuber: holding a camera in one hand, pointing with the other, and whizzing through the streets on an electric skateboard? Yes?  Then, you are a pedestrian, too.

With such a diverse classification of pedestrians, achieving Vision Zero objectives is not just a matter of lowering speed limits to curb Toronto pedestrian accident fatalities. There are many reasons for pedestrian accidents – and a one-solution approach will achieve only so much.

Driven by Data

Crucially, Vision Zero is not being implemented as a broad-based set of sweeping rules aimed at solving problems generally. So often, that generalized approach results in unintended effects that are detrimental to road safety.

Instead, Vision Zero is a data-driven program; the measures undertaken to implement it will be highly targeted. If that sounds familiar, well, it should. The City of Toronto has been at the forefront of open data, as well as assisting and supporting organizations to make data-driven infrastructure decisions. It is this scientifically based, data collection that provides the foundation for Vision Zero. The changes aimed at reducing pedestrian injuries involve in-depth data collection and analysis with respect to such matters as traffic density, risk-prone areas, and real-world driving.

Lowered speed limits

Lower speed limits on over 50 arterial and city streets are already in the works. Studies have consistently shown that a 10 km/hr. reduction in speed results in a dramatic decrease in the likelihood of pedestrian deaths and serious injuries. Daniel Fusca of the Keesmat Group, founded by Toronto’s chief city planner, says “if you are hit by a car going at 40 km/h, then you have a 30 per cent likelihood of dying.” That fatality rate, he notes, drops to 10 per cent if the motor vehicle is moving at 30 km/hr.

However, there are those who argue that reducing speeds too drastically can lead to traffic congestion and frustrated drivers.  More ominously, doing so may encourage or exacerbate a dangerous driving mentality.

Improve driver training

Defensive driving is at the core of the driving curriculum in Ontario, but, perhaps, it is not enough. Thus, driver training is being examined closely, searching for ways of improving driver awareness aimed at ensuring pedestrian safety. Doing so could mean greater awareness training for drivers of heavy vehicles and vehicles with obstructed views. Moreover, with the preponderance of app-based taxis, additional training for taxi and vehicle-for-hire drivers is being explored. With respect to impaired driving, the idea of implementing zero tolerance for alcohol consumption is being given serious consideration.

Minimizing haste

Giving pedestrians more time to cross streets safely can be beneficial on wide roads and multiple crossing thoroughfares. However, to undertake such changes necessitates recognizing that, when doing so, drivers must also be afforded additional time to make turns. Right- and left-turn manoeuvres are the cause of nearly a quarter of all fatal and serious injury pedestrian accidents in Toronto. Assessing whether this results from driver inattention or due to haste in completing the turn is currently being carried out on the street level. Measures that may be implemented would include adopting a no-right-turn on a red light, as well as increasing the time available to motorists to complete the turn.

Creative and pragmatic approach

Restrictions on street parking and installation of side guards at intersections are also being considered to reduce pedestrian accident death and injury. Certainly, there is a desire to be creative in order to improve pedestrian safety. Moreover, lessons are also being learnt from other countries, such as the United States and Sweden. We appreciate these efforts to make Toronto’s streets safer – without stultifying the dynamism and energy of the city.

If you been injured in a pedestrian accident or someone you know has lost their life in a road accident, get in touch with our pedestrian accident lawyer immediately. We’ll make sure you receive accident benefits immediately, your claim is correctly assessed by insurers, and you receive justice for your injuries.