Was Toronto Police Fairly Criticized for Giving Road Safety Armbands to Seniors?

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personal injury lawyers protest Toronto police safety initiative

Toronto police were criticized in late November for handing out reflective armbands to seniors at a road safety event. Some seniors’ advocates, road safety experts, and even personal injury lawyers criticized the initiative as a form of victim-blaming. The onus for preventing injuries to vulnerable road users, they said, should be on dangerous drivers, not pedestrians.

Assigning blame in accidents involving vulnerable road users can be challenging and controversial. Though there are no doubt incidents where pedestrians or cyclists are fully responsible for their injuries, drivers appear more likely to be at fault. A report prepared for Toronto’s Vision Zero program showed that distracted or dangerous driving was behind more than half of all crashes causing serious injuries or fatalities. A reflective armband would do very little to prevent those events.

Complicating matters further is the fact that 51 per cent of the more than 2,700 pedestrians and cyclists who were killed or seriously injured on Toronto roads between 2007 and 2018 were struck in broad daylight with clear visibility. Once again, reflective armbands wouldn’t have helped.

Of course, another 1,300 vulnerable road users were also killed or seriously injured between dusk and dawn or in rainy, snowy, or foggy weather – all situations where highly-visible clothing might have made a difference.

“Visibility is a key contributing factor in many pedestrian, road and traffic incidents,” Toronto police Deputy Chief Peter Yuen told the Toronto Star. “We’ll continue to do all we can to protect our communities and eliminate deaths and injuries on our roads.”

Most personal injury lawyers agree that all road users, including pedestrians and cyclists, have a responsibility to promote safety and avoid dangerous behaviour. But asking pedestrians to wear brightly coloured clothing or reflective armbands in the course of their normal lives is a little extreme. When Toronto city councilor James Pasternak tweeted his support for the armband program, he was flooded with angry and indignant responses.

“Wearing high visibility gear to protect yourself from negligent and reckless drivers is like asking people to wear fire-retardant pyjamas to bed just in case there’s a fire because someone was irresponsible with fire codes & safety,” one user quipped.

The most effective ways to reduce serious pedestrian injuries are to implement road design changes and bring down speed limits, both of which were proposed in Toronto’s Vision Zero strategy. Unfortunately, Vision Zero has not yet meaningfully reduced serious accidents – the Star estimates that there have been 34 pedestrian deaths already in Toronto this year.

If you or a member of your family have been injured in a car accident, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

Greg Neinstein, B.A. LLB., is the Managing Partner at Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers LLP. His practice focuses on serious injury and complex insurance claims, including motor vehicle accidents, slip and fall injuries, long-term disability claims and insurance claims. Greg has extensive mediation and trial experience and has a reputation among his colleagues as a skillful negotiator.
Greg Neinstein
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