In 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) partnered with the Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT) to publish the stories of traffic accident victims from around the world. Faces behind the figures: voices of road traffic crash victims and their families aimed to put a human face on statistics published in road safety reports.
“Statistical data are very important as they help understand the magnitude of the problem, assist in identifying areas for intervention and contribute to demonstrating if progress is made over time,” WHO explained in an accompanying report. “…Yet, reports don’t tell the full story. Behind each statistic there is a story of a father or mother, son or daughter, brother or sister, grandchild, colleague, classmate or friend whose life was transformed by a road crash.”
Forty-two pedestrians were struck and killed in Toronto in 2019 – only one has been formally identified by police. Local road safety activists, including some personal injury lawyers, believe naming traffic accident victims would help improve driver behaviour and, ultimately, reduce serious injuries and fatalities.
‘It may be time for Toronto to adopt a new policy of identifying victims of traffic deaths after their families have been notified, just as is done for homicide victims,’ the Toronto Star’s editorial board wrote in a recent column. Families would presumably be able to request that their loved ones’ names not be publicized.
Naming victims of fatal traffic accidents is not unprecedented, or even unusual. The Ontario Provincial Police names crash victims; so does the City of New York Police Department. The RCMP named victims until quietly changing its policy in 2015. Earlier this year, Peel Region policy broke with tradition to name the teenage victim of a hit and run. It said doing so raised the accident’s profile and made the victim “more real.”
Personal injury lawyers believe that all traffic accident victims deserve to be seen as “real,” and the Star argues that naming victims will accomplish that purpose.
“Identifying victims of road deaths, just as the police do for homicide victims, is one more way to raise the profile of Toronto’s dangerous driving problem,” the editorial reads. “It helps to humanize the victims. Without names (or faces and the stories of their lives that follow) the public knows these victims as anonymous statistics, not as people who tragically lost their lives.”
“That does nothing to spur further political action or help change driving behaviour.”
Naming accident victims might sound like an extreme measure, but Toronto’s past road safety efforts have done little to reduce pedestrian deaths. This may be the time to embrace unconventional tactics.
If you or a member of your family has been injured in a traffic accident, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our team will assess the viability of your claim and clearly outline your legal options.
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