TO DEADLY STREETS: The Outlook

When a minivan struck and killed Erica Stark on Nov. 6, 2014, the vehicle had jumped the curb, ran over a TTC bus pole and crashed straight into a light pole.

When the car hit Stark, she was on the sidewalk when the car left the road. The driver of the minivan, Elizabeth Taylor, was convicted of careless driving last week. Taylor received a $1,000 fine, with six-months probation and a one-month driving ban.

Our justice has been somewhat of a let down when it comes to giving out penalties for drivers who injure or kill pedestrians.

40-plus pedestrians were killed between Jan. 1 through Dec. 14- more than any other year in at least a decade. The most recent accident occurred yesterday afternoon when a pedestrian was found dead after being struck by a vehicle near Midland and Finch.

Toronto has had a record year for traffic deaths with 60 per cent of the fatalities coming from seniors, who make up 14 per cent of the Toronto’s population. With growing concerns of pedestrian deaths, city council asked staff to look into requesting  the province to lower default limits. On top of that, the new $80-million road safety plan was approved  in July as a targeted take to speed reductions, and lowering limits only on certain streets deemed as a “high risk”.

This is first step in what could be a change in the political atmosphere in Toronto. The good thing too, Toronto is speeding up its efforts to slow cars down. The city has installed 400 new speed limit signs, along with 14 roads designated as “pedestrian priority”. More changes will be coming in 2017.

The thought of decreasing Toronto’s default speed limits has been presented to the table in the past. In 2012, Dr. Dave McKeown, Toronto’s medical officer of health, suggested lowering speed limits to 30 km/h on residential streets and 40 km/h on all other roads. Then Mayor- Rob Ford, disagreed with the well-received idea.

Numerous studies show that a pedestrian or a cyclist hit by a car that is travelling at 30 km/h has a 90 per cent chance of survival. When they’re hit by a car travelling at 50 km/h, that number drops below 50 per cent.

Last year, the Toronto and East York Community Council voted to reduce speed limits on all local roads within the jurisdiction of 30 km/h.  Additionally, according to the 2015 Toronto Public Health report on pedestrian and cycling safety, 57 per cent of fatal collisions in the city occurred on roads with speeds limits of 60 km/h, where as the percent of those collisions took place on roads with limits of 40 km/h.

City councilors  do not have the ability to lower default speed limits on their own due to the default 50 km/h for municipalities in place  by the provincial Highway Act. However, the government of Ontario announced  last month that they will introduce a legislation that will allow municipalities to use automated cameras to enforce speed limits in school zones and community safety zones. If you’re caught on camera speeding, you’ll get a ticket in the mail. This is first time in well over 20 years that photo radar was last used in this province.

Lowering speeds don’t just reduce the force of impact on collisions, they make it easier for drivers to avoid crashes in the first place.  Slowing down cars might not be popular, but that’s only if everyone was more focused, less in a hurry, and more cautious of pedestrians and cyclists .

 

 

 

 

 

 

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