COVID-19’s Impact on Road Safety in Toronto and Elsewhere in Ontario

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The COVID-19 pandemic has affected nearly every facet of day-to-day life in Ontario, including how, when, and why citizens leave their homes. In downtown Toronto, for example, motor vehicle traffic is down from years past, while cycling traffic is up. On provincial roads, police are grappling with an increase in speeding fatalities. Here’s how road safety has changed in the province this year, and how a car accident lawyer can help.

Road safety – particularly the safety of cyclists, pedestrians, and other vulnerable road users – has been a major concern for the City of Toronto for several years. Although deaths and serious injuries involving pedestrians and cyclists have declined from their 2012-2013 peaks, there has not been a significant reduction in serious accidents since the city began collecting data in 2007… until this year.

According to the Toronto Star, just 63 pedestrians and cyclists were killed or seriously injured in collisions during the first half of 2020. That is the lowest number on record and significantly below the 12-year average of 99. Collisions plummeted in April as the COVID-19 lockdown took hold and motor vehicle traffic reached a low point.

“There’s this idea that maybe pedestrians are distracted or looking at their phones,” said Nancy Smith Lea, director of the Centre for Active Transportation, to the Star. “(But) clearly when there are no cars, there are no fatalities. And that’s as simple as that. Cycling and walking are inherently safe.”

Will injuries and fatalities return to pre-pandemic levels as more anti-COVID measures are lifted in the coming months and years? That’s difficult for anyone, even an experienced car accident lawyer, to say. Though the return of heavy motor vehicle traffic will likely cause an increase in collisions, the city has implemented several road safety measures that could mitigate the issue. These include an expansion of the city’s cycling network and the launch of 50 automated speed enforcement cameras.

The cameras have revealed an epidemic of dangerous driving in Toronto. Between July 6 and August 5, they issued more than 22,300 speeding tickets, including to 2,239 to repeat offenders. One individual was ticketed 12 times during that period.

“This data tells a frustrating story but I’m confident it will ultimately show over time a change in behaviour,” said Mayor John Tory in a release. “Right now, it does show the need for automated speed enforcement across our city, and particularly near our school communities. For those who hate getting a ticket or dislike these cameras, I have some simple advice to avoid getting a ticket: simply follow the posted speed limit.”

Speeding is also a major concern outside the City of Toronto, where fatal motor vehicle accidents have actually increased. At the end of August, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) announced that it had responded to 165 fatal crashes leading to 179 deaths so far in 2020. Speed was the leading factor, contributing to 32 fatalities, following by distracted and impaired driving, leading to 28 fatalities each. Twenty-six motorcyclists have been killed on OPP-patrolled roads this year, up from 16 last year; 27 pedestrians have been killed, up from 21. Six cyclists have also been killed.

“For so many innocent people killed in these collisions, there’s a driver whose careless behaviour contributed to this senseless loss of life and the lifelong impact left with the surviving families,” said Chief Supt. Rohan Thompson, commander of the OPP’s highway safety division, according to the Toronto Sun.

If you or a member of your family has been injured in a car accident in Ontario, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced car accident lawyer. Our team will review your case and provide guidance and advice on your road to recovery.


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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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