Commercial Vehicles Involved in Numerous Fatal Accidents in Toronto

As Ontario car accident lawyers, the team at Will Davidson LLP keeps a close eye on road safety issues around the province, particularly in Toronto, where fatal collisions among vulnerable road users (cyclists and pedestrians) have increased alongside the city’s population. A recent accident near the intersection of Yonge St and Eglinton Ave in Midtown epitomized the issue while simultaneously shedding light on a serious but neglected problem.

According to the Toronto Star, 54-year-old Evangeline Lauroza was struck and killed by a cement truck at Yonge and Erskine Ave, three blocks north of Eglington, on September 10. Toronto’s Midtown has been a hotbed of construction for several years. There are numerous high-rise buildings under development and crews are working on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, a multi-billion-dollar public transit project. The result is chaos at street level: roads are narrowed, exits are blocked, and commuters, pedestrians, and cyclists are forced to share space with large industrial vehicles.

As of the Star’s September 12 article, nine of the 26 pedestrian fatalities in Toronto were caused by collisions involving large trucks. The article also cites analysis by University of Windsor researcher Beth-Anne Schuelke-Leech, who found that 10.6 per cent of pedestrian fatalities between 2007 and 2017 involved large trucks, despite these accidents accounting for just 4.8 per cent of collisions overall. Additionally, the research showed that 37.6 per cent of serious collisions involving trucks during that time period were fatal, compared to just 15.9 per cent involving other vehicles.

“Trucks are undeniably more dangerous to (pedestrians and cyclists) in a collision when compared to other vehicle types,” Schuelke-Leech told the Star.

Ontario car accident lawyers are familiar with the dangers posed by large vehicles, both in downtown settings and on highways. The question is: what can be done to reduce truck accidents and the fatalities associated with them.

What is Being Done to Address Truck Accidents in Toronto?

In 2017, the Government of Ontario announced that drivers must undergo more than 100 hours of safety training before being eligible for a commercial truck license. Since then, the government has also introduced a strict no tolerance policy regarding drug- and alcohol-impaired truck-driving.

The City of Toronto has been less proactive. Its ambitious – and so-far ineffective – Vision Zero road safety strategy does not specifically address risks posed by large commercial vehicles. However, the city does have certain restrictions in place.

“Heavy vehicles are prohibited on certain streets and at certain times – on some streets only during overnight and on some streets at all times,” City of Toronto spokesperson Hakeem Muhammad told the Star.

“Commercial vehicles are large, heavy, full of sight line challenges,” he added. “Any time these vehicles are operated in areas used by vulnerable road users there is a risk to safety.”

However, these rules include exemptions: if there is no other way for a commercial vehicle to access a work site, they may use roads on which they would otherwise by prohibited.

City councilors in downtown wards have called for action to reduce accidents involving large commercial vehicles. Several have asked for a hiatus on development approvals in Midtown until more effective safety measures can be established. One downtown councilor also requested that smaller vehicles be used as garbage trucks, fire trucks, and ambulances, a strategy that has already been adopted in nearby Hamilton.

What to Do if You’ve Been in a Truck Accident

If you’ve been injured in an accident involving a large commercial vehicle, you may be entitled to compensation through a personal injury or insurance claim. Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to discuss your options. Accidents involving commercial vehicles can be quite complex, not only because they result in devastating injuries but because questions around liability may arise.

For example, some commercial vehicle accidents are caused by faulty equipment or improperly secured payloads. Is the driver of the vehicle solely responsible in these cases? Is the company or organization that owns the vehicle liable? Should the manufacturer share the blame? Accidents involving city-owned vehicles can be similarly complex.

What is clear is that if you’ve been seriously injured in a truck accident through not fault of your own, you deserve compensation for the damages you have suffered. Serious personal injuries can lead to lengthy recoveries and long-term disabilities; a personal injury claim can help address financial challenges and ensure access to necessary medical and rehabilitative care.

For more information about pursuing a personal injury claim, contact Will Davidson LLP to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our team of experienced Ontario car accident lawyers will review your case and provide advice as you consider your options.

Will Davidson LLP provides personal injury representation on a contingency basis, which means we do not charge legal fees until your claim has been successfully resolved. When your compensation is secured, our team will accept a percentage of your total compensation as payment.

Court Decision Puts Ontario Accident Victims in a Tough Spot

When the Government of Ontario enacted sweeping changes to the province’s auto insurance system in 2016, it did so with the aim of reducing premiums by streamlining and simplifying the claims and pushing through broad benefits cuts. According to most Ontario car accident lawyers, the changes to benefits and shifting injury definitions in Bill 15, the Fighting Fraud and Reducing Insurance Rates Act, have had a negative impact on injury victims while also failing to significantly reduce premiums.

Another stipulation of Bill 15 was that responsibility for resolving accident benefits disputes between injury victims and insurers moved from the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO), a regulatory agency of the Ministry of Finance, to the Licence Appeal Tribunal (LAT). The change was met with skepticism by Ontario car accident lawyers, who noted that the LAT had no history of managing conflicts between insurance companies and vulnerable insureds.

The shift from the FSCO to the LAT has not been catastrophic for accident victims, but a ruling by the Superior Court of Ontario, recently upheld by the provincial Court of Appeal, may spell trouble. The case, Stegenga v. Economical Mutual Insurance Company, involved an allegation of bad faith against the insurer. The ruling confirmed the LAT’s jurisdiction over most bad faith cases, which limits potential awards for plaintiffs.

The Case

Fifteen-year-old Morgan Stegenga was seriously injured in a car accident in 2011. In addition to broken ribs, she suffered a head injury that affected her cognitive ability and caused personality, behavioural, and psychological changes, according to Canadian Underwriter.

Morgan’s family applied for accident benefits in 2012. Their insurer, Economical Mutual Insurance Company, failed to advise them that Morgan’s injuries may qualify as catastrophically impairment. It also failed, according to Law Times, to ‘investigate Stegenga’s condition, have her medically assessed, assign a case manager for her care and rehabilitation or respond to their requests for authorization of a neurologic psychoeducational assessment.’ The Stegenga family opted to sue, alleging that the insurer had breached its duty of good faith.

The Decisions

Ontario’s Insurance Act states that the LAT is responsible for “the resolution of disputes in respect of an insured person’s entitlement to statutory accident benefits or in respect of the amount of statutory accident benefits to which an insured person is entitled.” Superior Court Justice James Ramsay decided that Stegenga’s claim fell into this category and dismissed it.

In its appeal, the Stegenga family argued that the insurer’s duty to act in good faith was separate from its duty to provide benefits and could thus be addressed in court. Court of Appeal Justice Benjamin Zarnett disagreed and upheld the Superior Court’s decision. He cited lawmakers’ intent in his explanation.

“The legislature made a choice as to what disputes would be within the exclusive jurisdiction of the LAT, and what remedial powers the LAT would have. That was a policy choice it was entitled to make,” Justice Zarnett wrote. “The Insurance Act and its regulations form a comprehensive scheme for the regulation of insurers and insurance. The legislature must be taken to have armed the LAT with the remedial powers it considered appropriate to deal with improper insurer behaviour, knowing those remedial powers were different from the court’s.”

The Implications

The decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal in Stegenga v. Economical Mutual Insurance Company will prevent accident victims from seeking damages outside the LAT from insurers acting in bad faith.

“This was an attempt by the personal injury plaintiff’s lawyers to try to preserve that bad faith cause of action and pursue it in court,” one lawyer told Law Times. “This just firmly shuts the door on the potential to recover for bad faith in a standalone action.”

It also limits the amount of compensation available to plaintiffs. In cases of bad faith, the LAT can make a special award of up to 50 per cent of the benefits that the injury is owed and can order the insurer to pay a higher interest rate, per Canadian Underwriter. But this is “much lower than the potential risk for a bad faith claim,” the lawyer who spoke to Law Times said.

Will the reduced maximum penalty for bad faith actions embolden insurance companies to act unethically? That is certainly a concern for many Ontario car accident lawyers. However, it is still far too early to know how the Stegenga v. Economical decision will affect insurer behaviour moving forward.

Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer

If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident and are considering claiming accident benefits, contact Will Davidson LLP today to learn how our experienced team of Ontario car accident lawyers can help. We will be happy to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to review your case and offer advice on how best to proceed. Contact us today for more information.

Dashcam Footage in Personal Injury Claims

Every year, hundreds of people are killed and tens of thousands are injured in car accidents in Canada. The impact of these accidents extends far beyond the people who are directly involved: families, friends, coworkers, and more are also affected. This far-reaching impact is why it’s so important for accident victims to work with an experienced car accident lawyer. If, for example, the person injured in the accident is the sole breadwinner for a family of four and is no longer able to work full-time, a car accident lawyer can help negotiate compensation that addresses the needs of the entire family.

But securing compensation isn’t as simple as submitting a list of expenses to an insurance company and waiting for a check to be delivered. Your car accident lawyer must establish who is liable for the accident, whether the accident was the cause of your injuries, and how much compensation is owed for those injuries.

Dashboard Cameras

Recently, dashboard cameras have become popular among the Canadian general public, with support from insurance providers, law enforcement, and personal injury lawyers. Often, they are adopted by people who have been involved in, or know someone who has been involved in, a traffic accident or insurance dispute.

Dashboard cameras are considered a reliable third-party witness in disputes over motor vehicle accidents, meaning they can help your car accident lawyer establish liability in a crash and, in some cases, prove causation of injuries. There are no privacy issues associated with dashcam footage, because roads are considered public places in Canada. As such, the footage is generally admissible in court. High-end cameras also record GPS positioning and speed, which can support liability claims.

Insurance providers favour dashboard cameras because they simplify the process of proving liability and reduce insurance fraud. In fact, some providers have considered offering discounts to drivers who use dashcams. Still, some members of both the insurance and personal injury fields believe the technology has flaws, not least of which is the risk of distraction.

“Dashcams may, like GPS devices, be a distraction if they’re not properly used,” said Pete Karageorgos, Insurance Bureau of Canada director of consumer and industry relations for Ontario, told the Canadian Press. “On the other side of the coin, if someone is involved in a crash or they witness something, the good thing about having dashcam video is it really is an impartial and unbiased witness to the events.”

It is also worth noting that although dashcam footage is admissible in general, it is unlikely to be accepted if it has been edited, cut, or manipulated in any way. From the moment of your accident, you should be careful to preserve it intact.

Even in cases where a car accident lawyer is not involved – hit and runs involving another vehicle, theft, vandalism, etc. – dashcam footage can help law enforcement identify suspects and make arrests.

How a Car Accident Lawyer Can Help

With the help of your dashcam footage, a car accident lawyer can identify the parties who are liable for your injury and pursue compensation to cover the cost of your recovery. As mentioned above, car accident injuries can be extremely serious. Recovery can involve months of medical care, rehabilitation, and therapy, as well as extended and perhaps permanent attendant care. In some cases, home renovations and mobility equipment may also be necessary.

These costs can add up quickly. Accident benefits obtained through your insurance provider can address some expenses, but it may be necessary to pursue additional compensation through a civil claim against the individuals who are responsible for your injuries. Dashcam footage, in addition to evidence collected at the scene of the accident, witness testimonies, police and medical reports and more, is essential to proving liability in your personal injury claim. An experienced car accident lawyer can review this evidence and offer advice on how to proceed.

Contact Will Davidson LLP

If you or a member of your family has been injured in a serious accident, contact Will Davidson LLP to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced car accident lawyer. Our team will assess the viability of your claim and provide guidance as you consider your legal options.

Will Davidson LLP has represented seriously injured Ontarians for several decades. During that time, we have come to understand the serious mental, physical, emotional, and financial challenges that accompany a traumatic injury. Although we know that no amount of money can make up for the pain and suffering you have experienced, we also understand that financial compensation can relieve some of the pressures associated with your recovery. For that reason, in addition to free consultations, we are proud to offer our services on a contingency basis, which means you will not be asked to pay legal fees until your claim has been successfully settled. If we cannot secure compensation, we will not accept payment.

Study Reveals Best and Worst Driving Cities in Ontario

InsuranceHotline.com, a website that compares auto insurance quotes, recently named the ten best and worst driving cities in Ontario based on how likely residents are to have tickets, collisions, or a combination of the two on their records. The study, which looked at quotes from 2018 and 2019, showed that drivers in high-density urban neighbourhoods are less likely to have infractions than their more rural counterparts. The results came as a surprise to insurance professionals and car accident lawyers.

Oakville is One of the Best Driving Cities in Ontario

Province-wide, 3.5 per cent of drivers admitted to having at least one at-fault crash and one ticket on their record; 6.9 per cent admitted to having at least one ticket and 8.9 per cent admitted to having been in a collision in the last ten years.

Drivers in Orangeville, Ontario, located roughly an hour northwest of Toronto, were the most likely to report at least one crash and one ticket, at 9.4 per cent. Fifteen per cent of Caledon drivers reported having at least one ticket, and 13.6 per cent of Woodstock drivers admitted being involved in a crash in the last decade.

The report assigned letter grades for each municipality based on the increased or decreased likelihood of drivers reporting an infraction. The communities of Orangeville, Bradford, Woodstock, Sault Ste. Marie, Brantford, and Orillia all received ‘D’s, while Thunder Bay, St. Thomas, Caledon, and Barrie rounded out the bottom ten with ‘C’s.

The top ten driving cities in Ontario – North York, Toronto, East York, Etobicoke, Mississauga, Brampton, Scarborough, York, Thornhill, and Oakville – are all in the GTA, to the surprise of the study’s authors.

“We were as surprised as pretty much everyone when we saw these results and really looked at the data and saw how this was shaking out,” InsuranceHotline.com senior manager of partnerships Anne Marie Thomas told Canadian Underwriter. For car accident lawyers, the finding bolsters concerns that downtown clients don’t receive good value for their insurance dollars.

Insurance Rates Don’t Reflect Study Findings

Drivers in cities like Brampton, Mississauga, and Toronto pay stubbornly high auto insurance rates which, as Ontario car accident lawyers know, have become more unreasonable given recent accident benefits cuts by the province. BramptonGuardian.com reports that Brampton residents pay an average $2,494 per year in insurance premiums, more than $1,000 above the provincial average. Mississaugans pay an average of $2,086 per year.

Auto insurance premiums are based on more than collision and infraction rates. Urban drivers may pay more due to the sheer volume of accidents downtown, or perhaps because collisions in city cores tend to be more serious than accidents on rural roads. Lower per capita collision rates also don’t necessarily mean that city dwellers drive more safely; they may simply drive less. After all, it’s more difficult for people in rural areas to get from point A to point B by transit, bicycle, or foot. Average population age could also play a role.

“It’s everything factored in together,” Thomas said in her interview with Canadian Underwriter. “It’s where you live, how you drive, how long you’ve been licenced – it’s the whole package. Saying that this one city is worse or this one city is better, for everyone, that may not necessarily be the case.”

“Maybe [the lower average premium in rural areas] speaks to the accidents not being at-fault accidents,” Thomas continued. “Maybe rates are more expensive in these cities … because of the cost to settle the claim versus somewhere in Orangeville. Maybe those drivers have had an accident, but it’s a single-vehicle accident that had a couple of thousand dollars in damage, whereas in a more congested areas, maybe the accidents are more significant and more expensive to settle.”

Flipping the Script

Regardless of insurance prices, the InsuranceHotline.com study challenges assumptions about rural vs. urban driving. It may feel safer to coast along a provincial highway than navigate multiple lanes of impatient traffic on the Don Valley Parkway, but the stats suggest rural drivers are ticketed more often and involved in more accidents than their urban peers.

Contact an Ontario Car Accident Lawyer

If you’ve been involved in a traffic accident anywhere in Ontario, contact Will Davidson LLP to learn how our experienced team of car accident lawyers can help. Will Davidson LLP has been representing injured Ontarians for decades. We understand the serious physical, mental, emotional, and financial challenges that accompany serious car accident injuries, and are committed to helping our clients secure compensation for the damages they have incurred.

Contact us today to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation where we will discuss the viability of your claim and explain your legal options. Will Davidson LLP is proud to work on a strict contingency basis, meaning you will not be asked to pay legal fees until your case has been successfully absolved. Reach out now to learn more.

Do Canadians Need In-Car Speed-Limiting Technology?

Technology is a mixed blessing on Canadian roads. On one hand, cutting-edge safety features like lane-keeping and automatic braking reduce injuries and accidents. On the other, smartphones and in-car navigation and entertainment systems cause distraction, which, as any car accident lawyer can attest, is a major safety hazard.

Now, the European Union is doubling down on in-car safety technology. It recently announced that intelligent speed assistance (ISA) systems, or speed limiters, must be added to new vehicles from 2022. The United Kingdom will follow suit, regardless of Brexit.

ISAs use GPS technology or smart camera software to identify speed limits wherever the vehicle is travelling. When the vehicle exceeds the posted speed limit, the technology limits engine power to reduce speed.

The European Transport Safety Council is bullish on the technology. It believes speed limiters are the single most effective driver assistance systems on the market, and estimates that mass adoption could reduce collision by 30 per cent and traffic deaths by 20 per cent.

Some members of the public, including more than one car accident lawyer, are less optimistic. There are concerns that the technology isn’t ready for adoption: what would happen, for example, if a vehicle’s GPS system indicated one speed limit while its camera system read another? A second issue is personal freedom. Should centralized governments control precisely how fast citizens drive?

While automobile manufacturers will be compelled to include speed limiters in new vehicles after 2022, drivers will be able to decide whether to use them. The EU and UK governments want drivers to see the technology as a helpful tool, not an imposition on their autonomy.

“One issue is acceptance. We don’t want to be turning off public support.” Professor Oliver Carsten of Leeds University’s Institute for Transport Studies told the BBC. “The other issue is unreliability – what happens if the car accidently picks up a limit that’s much too low, on a fast road? It could be a serious safety issue.”

There has been no talk in Canada about following the leads of the United Kingdom and European Union, but as automotive technology becomes more sophisticated, Canadian road safety activists will become more likely to promote it.

In the meantime, Will Davidson LLP can offer access to compensation or accident benefits when you’ve been involved in an automotive accident. Contact us today to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced car accident lawyer.

How Safe are Higher Speed Limits?

In May, Ontario Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek announced plans to review speed limits on provincial highways. Later in the month, the Conservative Government previewed plans to test a 110 km/h limit on three sections of 400-series highways. The announcements provoked mixed reactions from stakeholders, some who believe higher speed limits make perfect sense and others, including car accident lawyers, who fear they will lead to increased injuries and fatalities on Ontario roads.

Proponents of the plan often look to the United States for examples of successfully implemented higher speed limits. In 1995, Congress repealed a federal law capping speed limits at 65 mph (105 km/h) nationwide, allowing the states to set their own maximum speed limits.

Today, maximum speed limits vary widely state-to-state. According to the Globe and Mail, 22 have maximum speed limits of 70 mph (112 km/h); 12 have maximum limits of 75 mph (121 km/h); and seven – Idaho, Montana, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming – have maximum limits of 80 mph (129 km/h). In Texas, there is even a 41-mile stretch of highway with a mind-bending 85 mph (137 km/h) limit.

Like their southern cousins, Canadian provinces are able to set their own maximum speed limits. Ontario would join Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia by raising its maximum limit to 110 km/h. Only British Columbia’s is higher at 120 km/h on select roads.

Of course, the question for car accident lawyers is not whether Ontario should be able to raise its maximum speed limits, but whether it would be safe to do so. Evidence from the United States suggests not.

Chief researcher for the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) Chuck Farmer has studied the effects of higher speed limits on road safety extensively. Per the Globe, he believes increased speed limits have caused roughly 37,000 deaths in the United States since 1993. By looking at annual traffic fatalities per mile travelled in states that increased speed limits and factoring out other road safety factors like seatbelt usage, Farmer was able to calculate an 8 per cent increase in fatality rate for every 5 mph added to the speed limit on Interstates and freeways.

Less nuanced numbers provided by the World Health Organization offer similar conclusions. The United States experienced 11.6 traffic-related deaths per 100,000 people in 2016; Canada experienced just 5.8. In 2017, 1,841 people died on Canadian roads; 37,133 died in the United States. Closer to home, British Columbia was forced to roll back its 120 km/h speed limits on several routes when accidents more than doubled.

If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact Will Davidson LLP to learn how we can help. Our team of experienced car accident lawyers can provide guidance as you consider a personal injury claim.

Image credit: Bobby H./Wikimedia Commons

Low-income kids at higher risk of being hit by cars in Ontario

A new study conducted by researchers at Sick Kids Hospital, York University, and ICES (formerly Clinical Evaluative Sciences) shows that Ontario children living in low-income areas are more likely to be struck by vehicles than children in high-income areas, a fact that may not surprise personal injury lawyers. The researchers examined emergency room data from 2008 to 2015 from hospitals across the province.

“Simply put, poorer children are at increased risk of getting hit by cars,” lead study author Dr. Linda Rothman told CTV News. “Child pedestrian injury is a public health and equality issue.”

The study uncovered some positive findings, as well: emergency room visits by children struck by vehicles fell 18 per cent during the study period, including 22 per cent for kids living in high-income areas and 14 per cent for kids living in low-income areas. Unfortunately, that translates to high-income children visiting emergency rooms at a 48 per cent lower rate.

“Although progress has been made in reducing preventable pedestrian motor vehicle collisions, more work remains to be done,” Dr. Rothman said. “Our streets should be safe for all children to walk to school, to the playground or to the park.”

The researchers attributed the stark gap in collision rates in part to infrastructure differences.

“Recent research has found differences in road safety features in high-income versus low-income areas,” the report reads. “A request-based process in many cities in relation to installing traffic safety features such as speed humps may favour communities with higher income levels.”

The solution? Close the infrastructure gap by installing traffic signals, road narrowing protocols, speed bumps, and other traffic calming measures in low income districts.

The personal injury lawyers at Will Davidson LLP believe in equal access to justice for all Ontarians, which is why we provide our services on a contingency basis, meaning clients aren’t asked to pay legal fees until their case has been successfully resolved and compensation awarded. We also provide free, no-obligation consultations to accident victims in need. When you’re injured, you and your family should have access to fair and reasonable compensation, regardless of your income level.

If you or a member of your family has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact Will Davidson LLP today to arrange a consultation with our experienced team of personal injury lawyers. We will provide the advice and guidance you need to make informed decisions about your legal options and your recovery process.

Image credit: Pete/Wikimedia Commons

Driverless Cars Will Keep Passengers Safe, but Could Hurt the Insurance Industry

The presence of driverless cars on Canadian roads is a foregone conclusion, but the laws that will regulate them and the impact their presence will have on the insurance and personal injury industries are less understood.

To car accident lawyers, autonomous vehicles hold tremendous promise for improving road safety. The vast majority of serious motor vehicle injuries are caused by human error, which will gradually be reduced as automation increases. Today, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation reports roughly 40,000 accidents per year. The arrival of autonomous vehicles should reduce that number drastically.

“As time goes on and we get up toward 100-per-cent uptake on autonomous vehicles, nobody’s going to be paying attention because there won’t be many claims if the roads become as safe as people think they will,” said one former Ontario Trial Lawyers Association president to Law Times’ Michael McKiernan.

Though accidents caused by human error are a grave safety concern, there are concrete legal mechanisms in place to help victims access compensation. The path to securing damages will be much less clear as driverless cars become more ubiquitous. Some car accident lawyers worry that drawn-out and expensive liability disputes will prevail if clear, sophisticated legislation is not in place.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) sought to address this problem in a recently-released report on the driverless future. It suggests a ‘fresh approach for autonomous vehicles, including policies that cover both driver negligence and any technology at work in the car,’ writes McKiernan.

Many car accident lawyers agree that auto manufacturers must assume some liability. Placing responsibility in their hands will ensure that rigorous safety standards in the production and testing processes are implemented and upheld.

It is also in the best interests of the insurance industry to push for clear rules and guidelines. As one personal injury lawyer told McKiernan, the insurance business may have difficulty grappling with the expected reduction in accidents.

“When you look at the property and casualty business, somewhere around 40 per cent comes from auto insurance,” the lawyer said. “Fewer collisions means you’re dealing with fewer claims for personal injury and defending fewer property damage claims. Logically that should mean it is cheaper to insure a vehicle, and premiums will have to go down.”

Fewer accidents and lower premiums? The rise of autonomous vehicles could be a boon for Ontario’s drivers and the personal injury lawyers that represent them. But without clear legislation in place, injury victims will remain at risk of falling through the cracks.

If you or a member of your family is interested in pursuing an accident claim relating to a motor vehicle collision, contact Will Davidson LLP today to learn how our experienced team of car accident lawyers can help.

Should seatbelts be mandatory on school buses?

In January, federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced the formation of a task force to investigate the possibility of installing seatbelts on Canadian school buses. The announcement, which was cheered by safety advocates and car accident lawyers, marks a reversal of the government’s longstanding assertion that seatbelts in school buses make children less safe.

“We’re ready for this and we’re going to act as quickly as possible,” Garneau told Radio-Canada last month.

No seatbelts on school buses

The government’s anti-seatbelt policy was informed by a 1984 Transport Canada study that said seatbelts on school buses did not prevent – and may in fact cause – injuries to school children. The study was extremely influential. Its findings dictated seatbelt policies across Canada and the United States.

Why the sudden change?

More recent research produced dramatically different conclusions than the 1984 study. Today, safety experts, academics, American governmental bodies, car accident lawyers, and scientists are united in their belief that seatbelts in school buses save lives. National Safety Councils on both sides of the border have dismissed Transport Canada’s antiquated findings, as has the United States’ National Transportation Safety Board. In a 2015 speech, then-head of the US Highway Traffic Safety Administration Mark Rosekind said: “There is no question that seatbelts offer improved safety. Seatbelts [in school buses] will save the lives of children who we might otherwise lose in crashes.”

Yet it took an investigation from CBC News’s The Fifth Estate, published in October, to convince Transport Canada to change course. The investigation found that “thousands of injuries and numerous child deaths could have been prevented across Canada and in the United States in the past three decades had school buses been equipped with seatbelts.”

In December, for the first time, the ministry affirmed on its website that seatbelts “offer added protection for school-age children” when worn properly.

Next steps

The federal government can mandate that new school buses come with seatbelts, but it must work with the provinces to retrofit older buses. That’s where the task force comes in: Garneau intends to collaborate with provincial counterparts to organize and pay for upgrades.

“There are school boards that have to invest in the additional resources, so these are all things that are being looked at at the moment with the provinces,” he said.

In November, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne called for mandatory school bus seatbelts in her province, and transportation ministers in Alberta and British Columbia echoed her call last month. There is optimism among safety advocates that positive change is on the way.

“I would like them to make it a priority,” said Petra McGowan, founder of Manitoba Parents for Mandatory Seatbelts, per the CBC. “It should be thoroughly uncontroversial…. There is no question that seatbelts offer improved safety.”

Contact an experienced car accident lawyer

If you or a member of your family has been injured in an automotive accident, contact Will Davidson LLP today to learn how our experienced team of car accident lawyers can help.

 

 

New Ontario distracted driving laws come into effect in January

In June 2018, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) announced that distracted driving was the leading cause of traffic accidents in the province, making it as much a threat to public safety as drunk driving, drug-impaired driving, or dangerous driving. The announcement was unlikely to surprise Ontario car accident lawyers, but it may have come as a shock to the general public.

At the time, the government’s preventative efforts focused strongly on public education. The OPP and Ministry of Transportation partnered with local stakeholders to initiate awareness campaigns.

“A lot of kids follow their parents’ footsteps, so if they see their parents texting they might think it’s OK. They see their parents smoking they might think it’s OK,” said Holly Allen, a project coordinator with Kingston: Partners for a Safe Community in an interview with Global News this summer. “Trying to educate everyone is the goal, but educating parents first and foremost.”

Durham region also initiated a public messaging campaign underlining the dangers of the ‘Big Four Killers’ on Ontario roads: distracted driving, impaired driving, aggressive driving, and driving without a seatbelt.

Unfortunately, education may not be enough to prevent Ontarians from driving while distracted. In a survey conducted by Desjardins, which we discussed at length in a previous blog about distracted driving, a majority of respondents suggested that only fines and higher insurance premiums would push them to reconsider their distracted driving habits.

In 2019, they will get what they asked for. As part of changes to the provincial Cannabis, Smoke-Free Ontario and Road Safety Statute Law Amendment Act, distracted driving will be punished more harshly in come January. First time offenders will face a maximum fine of $1,000, a three-day license suspension, and three demerit points; second time offenders will face a $2,000 fine, seven-day license suspension, and six demerit points; and subsequent offences will provoke up to $3,000 in fines and a 30-day suspension. In other words, Ontario will have the harshest distracted driving penalties in the country.

“Safety is our top priority,” Minister of Transportation Jeff Yurek told the CBC in an email. The legislation, he added, “allows the province to address unsafe driving behaviours including careless and impaired driving with tough new rules and penalties that will improve road safety.”

While Ontario car accident lawyers are sure to support the new measures, most will caution that neither public education nor harsher penalties will reduce distracted driving on their own. The province and its municipalities must enact comprehensive distracted driving strategies to meaningfully improve road safety in Ontario.

If you or a member of your family has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact Will Davidson LLP’s team of experienced Ontario car accident lawyers today to learn how we can help.

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