Almost every Toronto personal injury lawyer has, at some point, fielded an inquiry relating to a vulnerable road user being struck by a vehicle. In Canada’s biggest city, cyclists, pedestrians, and motor vehicles all share limited space on the roads. As the city has grown, this arrangement has led to tensions and, unfortunately, a rising number of serious injuries and fatalities.
City planners, local politicians, and victims’ advocates have all proposed solutions to Toronto’s road safety woes, including increased funding for public transit programs, infrastructure updates, harsher penalties for dangerous driving, and stricter enforcement of existing traffic laws. Several months ago, Liberal MPP Yvan Baker even proposed the “Phones Down, Heads Up Act,” a so-called ‘zombie law’ targeting pedestrians who use their smartphones in crosswalks.
The Phones Down, Heads Up Act was an outlier; safety measures designed to protect vulnerable road users rarely target pedestrian behaviours. But in a recent Toronto Star editorial, contributor Royson James suggested that maybe they should.
Pedestrians in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) “exhibit a wanton disregard and disrespect of the car as a killing machine,” Royson writes. He posits that a healthy fear of automobiles and a sense of responsibility for one’s own safety would contribute to a decrease in pedestrian injuries in Toronto.
“Narrow sidewalks. Poor street design. Lack of safe cycling space. Insufficient speed controls. Inattentive drivers. These are some of the frequently cited reasons for the carnage on our streets when pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles converge,” Royson says. “We should loudly, boldly resolutely address another, less politically correct reason – the culture of pedestrian disrespect of the car as an agent of danger and death.”
However, in a separate Star editorial, Edward Keenan points out that the stats don’t back up claims that pedestrians are ultimately to blame for their injuries. He cites a May 2018 report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an American organization, that found that problematic road design and an increase in large passenger vehicles were primarily to blame for spiking pedestrian fatalities in that country.
If you were to ask a Toronto personal injury lawyer, they might tell you that the best solution to surging pedestrian fatalities is a mix of infrastructure updates, changes to the rules of the road, and public messaging campaigns that promote awareness among pedestrians. Blaming vulnerable road users for the dangers they face may be irresponsible, but asking them to take reasonable precautions is not.
If you have been injured in a road accident in Toronto, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced Toronto personal injury lawyer. Our team can help you understand your legal options and put you in touch with leading medical and rehabilitative care providers. At Neinstein, your recovery comes first.