Toronto is grappling with an almost unprecedented wave of traffic fatalities. With more than a month remaining in 2016, more than 70 people have already been killed on the city’s roads, eclipsing last year’s mark of 65, an 11-year high. More than half of this year’s road fatalities were vulnerable road users, including 36 pedestrians and at least one cyclist. With commuters heading home in darkness and inclement weather on the horizon, it’s reasonable to believe the death toll will climb higher before the beginning of the New Year.
In an attempt to raise awareness of and put a “human face” on the need for road safety improvements, a group of Torontonians who have lost loved ones to traffic accidents has formed an organization called Friends and Families for Safe Streets (FFSS). The group, believed to be the first of its kind in Canada, is calling for ‘better road design, tougher penalties for drivers, and reduced speed limits’ in the city, and will also ‘serve as a support network for people who have lost someone to traffic incidents,’ the Toronto Star reports.
“The hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries we’ve seen over the years were all preventable,” said FFSS’s Kasia Briegmann-Samson, who lost her husband in a cycling accident in 2012, at the group’s launch in October. “These are not numbers. These are lives. And for each individual killed there are scores of family members and friends who are also shattered.”
As the members of FFSS know well, direct victims of traffic accidents are not the only ones to suffer. Friends and family of accident victims face an imposing set of emotional, financial, and legal challenges that a car or bicycle accident lawyer can help navigate.
What can be done?
FFSS’s call to reduce speed limits is a common theme among road safety advocates. According to the City of Toronto’s June 2015 report, Pedestrian and Cycling Safety in Toronto, “collisions that result in pedestrian and cyclist injury or death most frequently occur on roads with higher posted speed limits like major and minor arterial roads.”
“If you’re hit by a car travelling at 50 or 60 km/h, you have a good chance of not surviving that injury,” Toronto Public Health’s Monica Campbell told the CBC. “That doesn’t happen at 30 km/h.”
Road’s that disproportionately cater to motor vehicles are also a source of traffic fatalities. In addition to lowering posted speed limits, safety advocates believe roads specifically designed to accommodate vulnerable users can limit fatalities.
Introducing narrower roads with fewer travel lanes can reduce the speed at which drivers travel, as can low-cost solutions like rumble strips. In his book No Accident: Eliminating Injury and Death on Canadian Roads, Neil Arason suggests earmarking ‘a percentage of highway funding for pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure,’ such as larger sidewalks and improved crosswalks, pedestrian traffic islands, and protected bike lanes, according to the CBC. These measures would slow down drivers and make them more aware of pedestrians and cyclists on the road.
Safety in Numbers!
As an Ontario bicycle accident lawyer will know, the province’s two largest cities – Toronto and Ottawa – are enduring a rash of bicycle-motor vehicle collisions. In Ottawa, three cyclists were struck by vehicles in the new O’Connor bike lane in the first two weeks of its operation.
Despite a number of publicized accidents, it is imperative that cyclists do not abandon their bikes; the best way to improve cyclist safety in cities is to stay on the road and raise awareness.
“It’s a phenomenon that’s been observed in many major cities that as more people are cycling, drivers just become more aware of cyclists,” Campbell said to the CBC. “They would slow down or take greater precautions.”
Technology for good and bad
Distracted driving is an obvious threat to safety of pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists alike. Police have seen a steady surge in distracted driving over the past several years, as mobile phones become an increasingly vital part of everyday life.
Still, technology does not play a one-dimensional role in road safety; enhanced vehicular automation can drastically improve road safety. Volvo is a leader in this regard, having developed camera and radio sensors that check for pedestrians and a front hood airbag system that protects potential accident victims from the engine block.
“Our vision,” said Volvo’s President and CEO Hakan Samuelsson, is that by 2020 no one should be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo car.”
If you have been injured, contact a Neinstein car or bicycle accident lawyer
Though it has been a dangerous year on the streets of Toronto, the city wants to see as many people as possible riding their bikes or walking to work. The health benefits of active transportation are many, from reductions in chronic illnesses like diabetes to lower all-cause mortality.
If you have been injured in a motor vehicle collision of any kind, contact a car or bicycle accident lawyer at Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today. Our team of experienced attorneys can help you access the compensation you need to regain control over your life.