January 3rd, 2016. A 39-year old man was hit by an SUV and was killed while crossing an intersection at Kennedy and Ellesmere in Scarborough. This was the first of 40 incidents that have occurred since then.
This has to stop.
Drivers who kill or injure pedestrians and cyclists often avoid criminal charges. Road safety advocates that the law must be changed to recognize the vulnerability of pedestrians and cyclists everywhere, especially in the heart of Toronto. People feel let down and betrayed by our legal system. Laws are meant for people to obey them and not succumb to being irresponsible in a sense that taking an innocent life will cost you as little as $300.
Individuals whose loved ones were killed in the streets of Toronto are speaking out more and many believe it’s time for the City of Toronto and its councilors to invest more money in the road safety plan. A controversial plan to reduce road deaths/injuries is committee bound, meaning that the City of Toronto must act now on how to make the roads safer across the city.
Last year, Toronto Police laid close to 3,800 careless driving charges. The charges carry up to $2,000 in fines to 6 months in jail. We are half way through 2016 and so far, 19 pedestrians have been killed out of the 40 incidents that have occurred since January 3rd.
Mayor John Tory has pledged a 20% reduction in road fatalities by 2026 with funding to improve the roads at a total of $68.1 million. The plan to reduce fatalities in Toronto is too modest. The City of Toronto is currently looking at different alternatives to the matter. The alternatives range from intersection redesigns, speed limit reductions, road safety awareness campaigns, and most importantly, additional more funding for the road safety plan.
Speed limit reductions are a big focus. It is the main factor in most collisions. Bathurst, Bay, Dundas, Queen Street and Spadina are key intersections in the city that will be reduced to 40 km/h from 50 km/h. For school zones, there is a proposal for a “school safety zone”. Essentially that would reduce the speed limits in all school zones across Toronto. Will there be stricter fines in school zones? Yes, there will be stricter fines with the City planning to allow Toronto Police to use photo radar with automated enforcement in school zones. Also, it looks like the speed limit will also be reduced in school areas from 40 km/h to 30km/h.
Seniors, however, have had it the worse. 63% of the collisions that have occurred this year have been seniors. Increasing walk times near adult facilities and stretching roadways can go a long way for both sides that is the driver and the pedestrian. Councilors must push politics aside and focus more on the people. They’ve looked into doing something similar to Vision Zero.
Vision Zero was a policy created by Swedish politicians in the nineties. The goal of this policy was to eliminate road deaths all together. Since the policy has been put in place, it actually has reduced the number of collisions by more than 50%. Majority of roads in Europe use roundabouts to help improve the flow of traffic and while it’s popular across the pond; it’s slowly making its way here in Canada and the United States. There are some good and bad adding roundabouts. It’s designed so that it reduces vehicles moving an intersection, but the downside could increase the number of collisions.
Back to the earlier statement of Toronto attempting to draw alternatives for road safety, Councilor Jaye Robinson, the Chair of the Public Works & Infrastructure Communications, earned an overwhelming support to add onto the $68.1 million fund to Toronto’s road safety plans.
Overall, the plan does seek to eventually eliminate road deaths and injuries and while 20% is a low number that should be a higher percentage to give the people of Toronto a sigh of relief that maybe someday the streets will be safe for everyone. In the end, you’ll get where you’re going to go and you can even save a life by doing what’s right for you, and people in Toronto.