Toronto is Making Roads Safer Through Infrastructure Changes

In 2016, the City of Toronto launched its Vision Zero Road Safety Plan with the ambitious goal of eliminating traffic deaths and serious injuries. The plan was welcomed by car accident lawyers and road safety activists who had seen different versions of the Vision Zero strategy successfully implemented in cities around the world.

Part of the reason that Vision Zero has been so successful is its focus on infrastructure. The framework aims to slow vehicles down through a variety of rules-of-the-road changes and physical traffic calming measures. It also prioritizes modes of active transportation. like walking and cycling, that lead to fewer serious injuries.

Toronto’s Vision Zero strategy has been less successful than other cities’ – traffic fatalities had not significantly decreased by the time the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in early 2020. However, the city has recently undertaken several modest infrastructure projects that could meaningfully impact road safety. They have even earned praise from a handful of car accident lawyers and road safety activists, both groups that are notoriously difficult to satisfy.

In July 2021, the city installed rubber speed bumps in the intersections of Sheppard Ave and Kennedy Rd and Finch Ave and Sandhurst Cir. The bumps force drivers to take slower and sharper left turns into crosswalks, which makes pedestrians and cyclists more visible. Left turn collisions with vulnerable road users are a prominent cause of injury and death, the city said in a release.

New York City has been running a similar pilot project since 2016. According to CBC News Toronto, pedestrian injuries fell 20 per cent at New York intersections with speed bumps, and the average turn speed fell by an average of 52.6 per cent.

“There’s plenty of times where I have wished that there were measures to keep drivers turning slower and better able to see me,” Kevin Rupasinghe of the road safety group Cycle Toronto told the CBC. “And I’m really confident that we’ll see those results with this type of measure – it just had to be rolled out a lot more intersections.”

Speed bumps were scheduled to be installed at six additional high-risk intersections by the end of August.

Sticking with intersections, Toronto confirmed plans this summer to accelerate another infrastructure project aimed at protecting pedestrians in crosswalks. Several years ago, the city began installing traffic signals that give pedestrians a five second ‘head start’ over vehicles. The aim, once again, is to increase the visibility of vulnerable road users. More than 500 signals have already been installed, with another 389 scheduled for installation by the end of 2021, according to CBC News Toronto.

Not enough data has been collected to measure the impact of head start signals in Toronto, but city traffic management director Roger Browne told the CBC that research from the National Association of City Transportation Officials suggests they can reduce pedestrian collisions by up to 60 per cent.

This project also received praise from safety advocates.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea. It’s simple,” said Jess Spieker of Friends and Families for Safe Streets to the CBC. “Nobody seems to be upset about it. Unlike some road safety measures, it seems to be instantly accepted.”

Last month, the city was scheduled to wrap up improvements to bike lanes on Bloor St East between Sherbourne St and Castle Frank Rd. The work would widen the lanes and add concrete barriers between cyclists and vehicles on the busy stretch of road.

There is ample research from around the world that suggests bike-friendly cities are safer for vulnerable road users. It’s not only cyclists that benefit from bike lanes: pedestrians are much less likely to be seriously injured in collisions with bicycles, and narrower roads force vehicles to move more slowly, which makes them inherently less dangerous. In fact, most of the infrastructure and rules-of-the-road changes that car accident lawyers and road safety experts would like Toronto to consider are focused on vehicle speed. There have been calls to implement a blanket 30 km/h speed limit on non-highway streets in the city, as well as suggestions to narrow certain high-speed routes, as has been done in New York and Montreal.

As car accident lawyers know, pedestrians and cyclists are exponentially more likely to be seriously injured or killed in a collision with a vehicle traveling at 50 km/h than a vehicle traveling at 30 km/h. Widening bike lanes, adding traffic calming infrastructure, and emphasizing pedestrians’ right-of-way at intersections are all effective ways to slow drivers down, but more will have to be done if the city plans to accomplish its goal of eliminating traffic deaths altogether.

If you’ve been injured in a traffic accident in Toronto, Oakville, or elsewhere in southern or central Ontario, contact Will Davidson LLP today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our team of experienced Ontario car accident lawyers will review your case, explain your legal options, and provide the guidance and support you need on your road to recovery.

Image: Shutterstock

Ontario Launches MOMS Act. Will Road Safety Improve?

On July 1, the Province of Ontario rolled out the first stage of a sweeping, multifaceted road safety plan called the Moving Ontarians More Safely (MOMS) Act. The legislation, originally introduced at Queen’s Park on April 26 and passed in late May, targets several high-profile areas of road safety concern. It has received approval from multiple safety advocacy organizations, including personal injury and car accident lawyers, although some groups say it doesn’t go far enough to protect road users.

The legislation’s primary focus is aggressive driving behaviours like stunt driving and street racing. However, there are also measures in place to protect transit riders, cyclists and e-bike riders, and road workers, as well as new truck safety standards and new regulations for the province’s towing industry.

“Both as Minister of Transportation and a parent to driving-aged teens, I am extremely concerned by the rising numbers of young drivers in Ontario caught stunt driving, street racing and driving aggressively,” said Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney in a provincial release. “By increasing driver’s licence suspensions and vehicle impoundment periods, the MOMS Act sends a clear message to drivers – driving is a privilege and those who threaten the safety of others have no place on our roads.”

Car accident lawyers will surely agree with the Minister that new rules for aggressive drivers are necessary. While collisions fell last year during the first and second waves of the COVID-19 pandemic in Ontario, the fatality rate increased, due in part to dangerous driving on empty roads. The new act will impose the following measures:

  • Increase roadside licence suspensions for drivers caught street racing or stunt driving from seven days to 30 days
  • Increase roadside vehicle impoundment period from seven days to 14 days
  • Introduce escalating post-conviction licence suspensions:
    • First conviction: one- to three-year suspension
    • Second conviction: three- to 10-year suspension
    • Third conviction: lifetime suspension that may be reduced at later date
    • Fourth conviction: lifetime licence suspension
  • Introduce lower speed threshold for stunt driving charges: from 50 km/h above speed limit on roads with speed limits under 80 km/h to 40 km/h above speed limit on roads with speed limits under 80 km/h
  • Introduce default speed limits of 80 km/h on highways not within a local municipality or built-up area

Protecting Vulnerable Road Users

The MOMS Act also seeks to better-protect vulnerable road users, including cyclists, pedestrians, motorcycle and e-bike riders, and transit users.

For transit users, the legislation introduces a new enforcement framework that will allow automated cameras to be installed on streetcars. The goal is capture photo evidence of drivers passing on the right – which is illegal – or on the left while the doors are open to pick up or drop off passengers.

It will also change the way ‘dooring’ incidents – when a parked driver opens their door and strikes a cyclist – are tracked. Under the new rules, individuals involved in dooring accidents are required to submit a police report; if charges are appropriate, they will also have to be filed.

For motorcycle and e-bike users, there will be a new definition of “power-assisted bicycles” under the Highway Traffic Act and new standards for three varieties of e-bikes: bicycle-style, mopeds, and motorcycle-style.

Protecting Road Workers, Trucking Standards, and Towing Industry Oversight

The MOMS Act’s remaining points of focus are road workers, the trucking industry, and the towing industry.

The Act will give Ministry of Transportation enforcement officers the power to close a road in emergencies. It will also permit the use of “Automated Flagger Assistance Devices” to reduce the need for road workers to direct traffic. Finally, it will allow highway construction vehicles to back up on divided highways when the action can be taken safely.

The trucking industry will be under new standards when the MOMS Act is fully implemented. New tools will be introduced to prevent drivers from breaking hours-of-service rules, and there will also be clearer dimensional limits for trailers.

The towing industry will soon be regulated by the Towing and Storage Safety and Enforcement Act, which will require tow operators, two truck drivers, and vehicle storage operators to be certified and meet certain requirements and standards. The new act will set customer protection and roadside behaviour standards, establish non-compliance penalties, and establish a Director of Towing and Vehicle and Storage Standards to provide oversight.

Safety Hopes

While road safety legislation always leaves room for improvement, many of the new rules introduced in the MOMS Act have the potential to improve safety and reduce injuries and fatalities on Ontario’s roads. It will be interesting to see whether accident and fatality rates fall in the coming months as some of these changes take effect.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact the car accident lawyers at Will Davidson LLP today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our team will be happy to review your claim, explain your legal options, and provide the representation and support you need on your road to recovery.

Image: Shutterstock

Civil vs. Criminal Bartender Liability in Drunk Driving Accidents

Drunk driving rates have plummeted for decades in Canada, but impairment continues to be a major risk factor on our roads, as car accident lawyers know. Considering the time, money, and effort stakeholders have put into anti-drunk driving campaigns, when impaired driving accidents dooccur there tends to be significant public outcry. Community members want to know who is responsible.

The question of responsibility for drunk driving accidents doesn’t always come with easy answers. Yes, the individual who chose to get behind the wheel bears significant liability – but did they act alone? Were they overserved at a friend or relative’s house? Did they visit a bar or restaurant before driving? What happens if the driver is under the legal drinking age?

Some of these questions were asked following a single-vehicle impaired driving accident in 2017 near Ottawa that left two teenagers dead and another two seriously injured. All four had been drinking at Shooters’ Bar and Grill in Calabogie, Ontario, before the crash.

In 2018, 62-year-old Ann Senack, who served the boys at the establishment, was charged with two counts of criminal negligence causing death and two counts of criminal negligence causing bodily harm. The trial began this spring.

According to legal experts who spoke to Canadian Underwriterin 2019, criminal charges against bartenders related to drunk driving accidents are notoriously hard to prove.

“To extend criminal liability in these circumstances is very, very uncommon,” said Michael Lacy, president of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association. “If someone were held criminally culpable in these circumstances, I’d say that would be a precedent-setting decision.”

Another criminal lawyer told the publication that prosecutors would have to prove that there was a “marked and substantial” departure from the standard of care that servers owe patrons.

‘Prosecutors would have to show a bartender knew the person they were serving was clearly underage, and knew the person was driving home and was impaired to such a degree that it would be a danger to them and to others,’ Canadian Underwriter reported. ‘The Crown would also have to show a direct link between the alcohol served to the person and the injuries caused.’

Sure enough, Crown attorney Jefferson Richardson announced last month that charges against Senack would be stayed after cell phone records showed that the driver of the vehicle was using his phone at the time of the accident. Instead of facing jailtime, the server agreed to a 10-year peace bond and will pay $10,000 and perform 300 hours of community work, according to CBC News Ottawa.

However, the CBC also reported that several civil cases against Senack are pending – and the threshold for proving civil negligence is much lower than in criminal cases.

In order to establish negligence in a civil case, plaintiff-side lawyers most only prove that it is more likely than not that the bartender breached their standard of care.

“Those two things – one being the higher standard for criminal negligence, and the higher burden of proof in a criminal case – means that the viability of this type of prosecution is often minimal, which is why most of these cases are dealt with in the civil courts,” the criminal defence lawyer told Canadian Underwriter.

How Can Will Davidson’s Car Accident Lawyers Help?

In Ontario, there are several ways to pursue compensation for car accident injuries. The first and simplest is via accident benefits through your insurance provider. When a driver is involved in an accident in our province, their auto insurance entitles them to predetermined benefits based on the severity of their injuries. These benefits are often sufficient to cover any expenses and damages that arise from your accident.

In some cases, though, accident benefits may not be enough to address the serious injuries you have sustained. If you were not at-fault for your accident, or if liability can reasonably be shared by another party, you may be able to pursue a civil claim for damages with the help of our car accident lawyers. Impaired driving injuries precipitated by negligent bar or restaurant service is an example of a situation where a civil claim might be appropriate.

If you or a member of your family have been involved in a motor vehicle accident involving an at-fault party, consider contacting Will Davidson LLP today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with our team of car accident lawyers. We will be happy to assess your claim and explain your legal options.

Image: Shutterstock

Are Canada’s Drunk Driving Rules Strict Enough?

As car accident lawyers, the Will Davidson LLP legal team receives inquiries from clients who have been injured in a car accident and are seeking legal advice. Through drunk driving has declined in Canada (in the mid-1990s, well over 1,000 Canadians per year were killed in impaired driving accidents; by the mid-2010s, the number was less than 500) it remains far too common.

The dangers of drunk driving are clear: alcohol intoxication slows reaction time, reduces coordination, makes it difficult to concentrate, impairs vision, and inhibits judgement, all of which contribute to unsafe driving. For years, the federal and provincial governments, in partnership with advocacy groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada, have sought to spread this message through aggressive public education campaigns. Schoolchildren are taught that drunk driving is unacceptable from a young age; MADD commercials run regularly during high-viewership television events.

In late 2018, new federal laws came into effect with the aim of further discouraging drunk driving. Previously, first-time offenders faced a minimum fine of $1,000; second-time offenders faced a minimum penalty of 30 days in prison; and repeat offenders faced a minimum of 120 days in prison.

Under the new laws, first-time offenders with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of between 80 and 119 mg per mL face a minimum fine of $1,000; first-time offenders with a BAC between 120 and 159 mg face a minimum fine of $1,500; and first-time offenders with a BAC over 160 mg face a minimum fine of $2,500. First-time offenders who refuse to be tested face a minimum fine of $2,000.

The penalty for second- and third-time offenders remains a minimum of 30 and 120 days in jail, respectively. Impaired drivers who cause an accident causing no bodily harm face up to 10 years in prison. Those who cause an accident causing bodily harm face up to 14 years, and those who cause an accident resulting in death can face life in prison.

The new penalties were generally accepted by road safety advocates and car accident lawyers. However, some still question whether they are sufficient. A recent Toronto Stararticle suggests that some drunk drivers in Ontario are treated too leniently.

On June 21, 2020, 27-year-old Darya Selinevich of Richmond Hill was arrested while driving dangerously on Highway 400 south of Barrie. According to an agreed statement of facts, as reported by the Star, Selinevich was “swerving from side to side” in heavy traffic and repeatedly almost struck the median. A breathalyzer showed she had a BAC of over 160 mg. A dozen empty beer containers were reportedly found in her vehicle.

Shockingly, this was Selinevich’s third arrest for impaired driving. In 2015, she received a one-year ban for speeding with a BAC of twice the legal limit. Just a month later, she struck and killed a cyclist on Finch Ave West, fled the scene, and led police on a chase through a residential neighbourhood. She had been drinking heavily and was travelling at twice the speed limit when the collision occurred, according to the Star.

Selinevich received a seven-year sentence for her role in the death, which was reduced to 4 ½ years for time served. She was granted day parole in early 2018, and later granted full parole on the condition that she did not drink and did not drive.

Following her most recent arrest, Selinevich pleaded guilty to impaired driving and driving while suspended. The Crown is seeking a prison sentence of two years less a day; her defence is seeking a sentence of no more than 15 months. For many observers, including some car accident lawyers, both proposals are too low. Selinevich has a history of impaired driving and apparently learned nothing from her role in a man’s death. Previous jail time and existing driving bans did nothing to discourage her from getting back behind the wheel while intoxicated.

As MADD Canada CEO Andrew Murie told the Star: “Families who have been impacted by impaired driving will think this is outrageous.”

As car accident lawyers, the team at Will Davidson LLP can help victims of drunk driving find closure where the criminal justice system cannot. Our team has helped numerous accident victims access compensation to mitigate the costs of recovery.

If you or a member of your family has been injured in a car accident, contact Will Davidson LLP today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced car accident lawyer. Although our team has experience with claims involving impaired driving, we also provide representation in accident benefits claims, insurance disputes, and more.

Reach out today to learn more about our services and experience. Will Davidson LLP offers representation on a contingency basis, meaning you won’t be charge up-front or hourly legal fees. Instead, our team will accept a pre-arranged percentage of the final legal settlement as payment. This approach is used by most personal injury law firms in Ontario to ensure access to justice for all Ontarians.

Image: Shutterstock

How Has COVID-19 Affected Road Safety?

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, road safety experts, including personal injury lawyers, attempted to predict how shelter-at-home measures would impact motor vehicle accident rates and driver behaviour. It was assumed, for example, that wide lockdowns would limit the use of personal automobiles, and that that would in turn reduce the number of serious accidents.

Around the time that the pandemic took hold in North America, the Global Alliance of NGOs for Road Safety compiled a list of factors that might affect road safety during and after the lockdowns. Below, we’ll look at a few key predictions and assess their accuracy.

There Will Be Fewer People on the Roads

The Global Alliance was correct in predicting that personal automobile use would decline amid the lockdowns. This effect has been noted around the world.

Unfortunately, the Alliance – and many personal injury lawyers – also guessed that fewer journeys would lead to fewer crashes. New data suggest this has not been the case. In the United States, a report from the National Safety Council (NSC) showed a 14 per cent year-over-year increase in fatality rates per distance driven in March. While overall traffic deaths – a figure that includes fatalities among drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists – were down 8 per cent, the overall number of miles driven was down 18 per cent, meaning road users are actually more likely to be killed than during the same period last year.

The numbers are equally discouraging in Ontario, where the OPP reported 71 deaths on patrolled roads as of May 4, up from 61 deaths during the same period in 2019. In both the United States and Ontario, speed appears to be a key factor.

“Disturbingly, we have open lanes of traffic and an apparent open season on reckless driving,” said NSC President Lorraine M Martin, according to the BBC. “Right now, in the midst of a global pandemic and crisis, we should take it as our civic duty to drive safely.”

“If we don’t do it for ourselves,” she added, “we should do it for our first responders, our law enforcement and our healthcare workers, who are rightly focused on coronavirus patients and should not be overwhelmed by preventable car crashes.”

Of the 71 deaths in Ontario, 17 were linked to speeding.

“We aren’t invincible,” said Lewis Smith, Canada Safety Council’s coordinator of communications, to Global News. “Speed may seem like a good idea because the roads are open, and you think you’re not putting anyone at risk, but the truth is risk can come in a hurry. Speed incenses the likelihood of something happening you don’t have time to react too.”

Even before it became apparent that lighter traffic would not lead to fewer deaths, safety experts were concerned about cars eventually returning to the roads.

“Some radio programs and news reels are showing empty streets and realizing that it’s true that there are no road crashes because of this, but what will happen when we all go out again?” asked Viviam Perrone of Argentina’s Asociación Civil Madres del Dolor in a Global Alliance article. “… we should learn to live with our foot off the accelerator when we return to the streets.”

Fewer People Will Use Public Transit

It was expected at the onset of the pandemic that mass transit ridership would plummet – this has played out as expected. It is unlikely that riders will return to public transit in the near future.

From a road safety perspective, this is a problem. Traveling via mass transit is in general much safer than travelling in a personal automobile. If fewer people choose to take mass transit in the near future, that will mean more automobiles on the road and, in all likelihood, more accidents.

If cities want to avoid a major spike in traffic accidents as their lockdowns are lifted, they must encourage commuters to travel on foot or by bicycle as much as possible. They must also develop strategies for effectively sanitizing public transit vehicles and restoring public trust.

Road Safety Strategies Will be Put on Hold

The City of Toronto is already familiar with the challenges of implementing a comprehensive road safety strategy; even before the pandemic, it struggled to make progress with its Vision Zero approach. As public resources are reallocated to deal with COVID-19, personal injury lawyers fear that road safety measures will tumble down the list of priorities. There is also concern that public messaging and awareness campaigns around road safety will be drowned out by the deserved focus on the virus.

“In general, it would seem that most of the public will be distracted, from road safety messages and that perhaps some of what we road safety advocates might usually be doing might need to wait until COVID comes under control,” said University of Washington Global Health professor Carlie Mock in the Global Alliance article.

Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer

If you or a member of your family has been injured in a traffic accident amid COVID-19, contact Will Davidson LLP today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our team of personal injury lawyers is continuing to accept new clients throughout the lockdown. Don’t hesitate to be in touch with any questions or concerns.

Image: Shutterstock

How Daylight Saving Time Contributes to Car Accidents

Daylight saving time, the practice of advancing clocks during spring and summer to create longer evenings, has existed in Canada for more than a century. At the time it was adopted, the goal of the program was to save energy: the longer the sun stayed up, the thinking went, the less time people would spend indoors under artificial lighting.

Today, daylight saving time is deeply unpopular. Not only does it deprive Canadians of an hour of precious sleep, but it increases the risk of car accidents, strokes, heart attacks, workplace injuries, and more. Many car accident lawyers experience an increase in queries in the week following the time change.

In January, researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder published a study in Current Biology on the effect of daylight saving time on road safety. It analyzed more than 730,000 accidents between 1996 and 2017 and found a six per cent spike in fatal car accidents in the week following the annual ‘spring forward.’ The spike accounted for 28 deaths per year, on average.

“Our study provides additional, rigorous evidence that the switch to daylight saving time in spring leads to negative health and safety impacts,” said senior author Celine Vetter, an assistant professor of integrative physiology. “These effects on fatal traffic accidents are real, and these deaths can be prevented.”

Most strikingly, the researchers found that the one-week spike in fatal accidents shifted alongside a major change to daylight saving time in 2007. Prior to that year, the ‘spring forward’ occurred in early April; since then, it occurs in mid- to early-March.

“Prior to 2007, we saw the risk increase in April, and when daylight saving time moved to March, so did the increase,” said Vetter. “That gave us even more confidence that the risk increase we observe is indeed attributable to the daylight saving time switch and not something else.”

The study also shows that drivers in the western-most regions of each time zone were more likely to be affected by the change, with fatal accidents in those regions increasing by eight per cent rather than six.

The spike is caused by both environmental factors – collisions are more likely to occur in the dark – and physiological ones. As road safety experts and car accident lawyers understand, fatigue can have a significant impact on a driver’s decision-making and judgement. It can also make them less attentive to the road.

The return to standard time, or ‘fall back,’ which occurs in October or November, also presents safety risks. According to Driving.ca, personal injury accidents involving vulnerable road users increase drastically between 5pm and 8pm in the week following the time change. The Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) said that between 2013 and 2018, an average of 430 pedestrians were injured in the month prior to the time change and an average of 537 were injured afterward. The risk is similar in Ontario: the Ministry of Transportation reported a 19 per cent increase in injuries between 5pm and 8pm in the week following the ‘fall back.’

“This remains very similar with our 2010 to 2015 statistics, and doesn’t really seem to have changed over the years,” SAAQ spokesperson Sophie Roy told Driving.

Fatigue isn’t a factor in the accidents following the return to standard time – after all, drivers should have had an extra hour of sleep. But the suddenly dark evenings are ripe for accidents involving cyclists and pedestrians, particularly because they coincide with the homeward commute.

Many car accident lawyers, road safety activists, and even average Canadians would happily abolish daylight saving time. The energy-saving rationale that originally inspired the practice makes less sense today than it did 100 years ago – most Canadian households have heating and air-conditioning systems that run more-or-less year-round. And English road safety charity Brake estimated that ditching daylight saving time could prevent 80 deaths and 200 serious injuries per year in that country.

Contact Will Davidson LLP

If you or a member of your family has been involved in a motor vehicle accident, contact Will Davidson LLP today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our experienced team of car accident lawyers will assess your claim, explain your legal options, and provide guidance and advice throughout the legal process and during your recovery.

At Will Davidson LLP, we endeavour to understand the many physical, emotional, and financial challenges that accompany a serious personal injury. We have worked with thousands of accident victims during our more than 90 years of practice. In that time, we have seen clients struggle with significant financial issues that strain relationships and put wellbeing in jeopardy.

For that reason, our team is proud to offer legal services on a contingency basis. Under a contingency payment structure, our team will not charge hourly fees; instead, we will accept a pre-determined percentage of your settlement at the time that it arrives. This arrangement allows clients to maintain financial flexibility during the early days of their recovery and ensures that they are never charged for services that don’t achieve desired results.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Quick Road Safety Fixes for Ontario Cities

Many of the road safety concerns that worried Ontario’s car accident lawyers in 2010 remain relevant at the dawn of the new decade. Speeding, dangerous driving, and impaired driving continue to contribute to serious injuries and fatalities across the province, while new concerns such as legalized marijuana and widespread distracted driving are causing additional challenges.

The safety of vulnerable road users is also an enduring issue. In fact, it may be the single most pressing road safety issue in Ontario’s cities and towns. According to data from the Toronto Police Service (TPS), 20 pedestrians and two cyclists were killed in Toronto in 2010. By 2013, those numbers had doubled. In five of the six years since, at least 40 vulnerable road users were killed in Canada’s largest city.

Toronto has a plan: Vision Zero, which has been in place since 2016 (during which time fatalities have not decreased) and which we have already discussed in this blog. But many Vision Zero action items are high level changes that seek to fundamentally reshape Toronto’s massive transportation infrastructure and reverse driver behaviours and attitudes learned over decades. Vision Zero has the ingredients to eliminate traffic deaths in Toronto, but not in the next ten years.

With that in mind, the Globe and Mail recently assembled a list of 10 road safety ideas that experts believe can be done quickly with a little help from city hall. While most Ontario car accident lawyers support Vision Zero and its ambitious safety initiatives, few would argue against these quick, outside-the-box fixes.

Here are a few of the ideas from the list:

  • Identify and memorialize victims

Toronto police do not generally name traffic accident victims in order to protect the privacy of the victims’ families. However, publicly identifying victims, with their families’ consent, could reverse the idea that traffic deaths are a fact of life of urban residents.

“If we see fatalities as statistics, which is the result of not releasing names, it’s easier to maintain that stance,” said Michael Black, who is on advocacy group Walk Toronto’s steering committee, to the Globe. “If you release the names, I think people will be more apt to say: Should part of walking be running the risk of being killed?”

The Globe’s list of ideas also includes memorializing victims with a permanent monument.

  • Improve truck safety

Large commercial vehicles account for a disproportionate number of serious injuries and fatalities on Ontario roads. While Toronto can’t unilaterally change safety standards for trucks in general, it can improve the safety of its own fleet. In Montreal, the city equipped municipal trucks with sideguards to prevent injuries to vulnerable road users; the Globe suggests Toronto do the same.

  • Traffic enforcement

Early last decade, a dedicated Toronto police traffic unit patrolled busy corridors and enforced safety laws. The unit was disbanded in 2012 and the number of traffic tickets handed out in the city hit an all-time low in 2018. The Globe’s experts believe more enforcement could help pull fatalities back to pre-2012 levels. 

“Obviously, the more enforcement, the more people are going to get caught, the more they think they’re going to get caught and they change their behaviour,” said Walk Toronto’s Brown.

In this instance, road safety advocates may get their wish. Late last year, Toronto police announced plans to reintroduce a dedicated traffic squad in 2020.

  • Easier access to traffic calming measures

Concerned residents have to jump through a lot of hoops to get traffic calming measures installed on their streets in Toronto. According to the Globe, if a group of people living on a street wants speed bumps installed, the city will send voting ballots to everyone on the block – a majority of the ballots must be returned for the motion to advance, and 60 per cent of respondents must approve in order to proceed.

A simpler process could save lives – or the city could simply change its residential street parking policies. The Globe suggests allowing both-side parking on certain streets, which is itself a traffic calming action.

For a full list of suggestions, check out the Globe’s article here: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/toronto/article-10-quick-ideas-that-could-reduce-pedestrian-deaths-in-toronto/

Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer

If you’ve been injured in a traffic accident in Toronto, Oakville, or elsewhere in Ontario, contact Will Davidson LLP to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our experienced team of car accident lawyers has represented seriously injured accident victims for decades. We will happily review your case, outline your legal options, and suggest next steps. If you choose to retain our services, our team will provide tough representation, open communication, and compassionate guidance and advice as you navigate the road to recovery.

Protecting Senior Road Users

On a Saturday in late November, Toronto police hosted a seniors-focused pedestrian safety event at Woodside Square mall in Scarborough. The session included safety tips from officers and free reflective armbands to improve visibility. It occurred just a day after two seniors were seriously injured in separate accidents elsewhere in the city.

Seniors’ safety is a major concern for Toronto’s lawmakers, road safety advocates, and personal injury lawyers. According to the city’s official Vision Zero plan, roughly 870 seniors were killed or seriously injured in accidents between 2005 and 2016. In 2019, approximately 80 per cent of pedestrian fatalities involved people 55 or older; about half were seniors. As Toronto’s population ages – roughly one in five Torontonians will be older than 55 by 2040 – this already serious issue could become a crisis.

Toronto isn’t the only region facing this challenge. Transport Canada data shows that an average of 447 senior-aged drivers, passengers, pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists died each year between 2000 and 2015 on Canadian roads. The next most vulnerable group, 25- to 34-year-olds, averaged 379 deaths per year. The data also shows that senior drivers, specifically, were the most likely to be killed since 2010; they were third, fourth, and fifth most likely from 2000 to 2007.

According to CBC News, the increase in traffic deaths involving seniors and older adults is “a troubling trend found in cities around the world,” a trend that lawmakers are struggling to address. Toronto police’s information session at Woodside Square, for example, attracted widespread ire from safety advocates and some personal injury lawyers.

“They’re out there doing something that the evidence shows us does not work and is in fact a form of victim blaming,” said Jessica Spieker of advocacy group Friends and Families for Safe Streets to CBC Toronto. “There is clear statistical evidence that driver behaviour is largely at fault along with infrastructure design. So there are the things we need to aggressively target.”

In fact, infrastructure design and actions to reduce speeding and other dangerous behaviours are central to Toronto’s Vision Zero plan. The city has invested in red light cameras, road redesigns, speed limit reductions, and is planning to introduce automated speed enforcement cameras in the near future. It also plans to improve “senior safety zones” around the city with enhanced markings and signage, longer pedestrian crossing times, and additional road design changes.

Unfortunately, the initiatives have not yet reduced collisions, serious injuries, or fatalities, and law enforcement may be getting desperate. In November, police Chief Mark Saunders announced a new eight-person traffic enforcement unit tasked with reducing dangerous driving and protecting pedestrians at high-risk locations. The Woodside Square safety session, on the other hand, appeared to shift focus from dangerous driving to dangerous walking.

“Instead of keeping on reminding drivers, we also want to help the pedestrians to raise their awareness and provide them with a simple tool that can help them,” Const. David Huang told the CBC. “If we can even reduce pedestrian collisions by one then I think it’s all worth our time.”

Mayor John Tory’s office also offered support for the initiative through a statement that read: “everyone must do their part to stop these preventable deaths and injuries, but that the primary onus rests with drivers in powerful steel vehicles.”

The Mayor’s statement mirrors what most Toronto citizens – including many personal injury lawyers – believe about road safety in their city. Reckless cyclists and pedestrians do sometimes cause serious traffic accidents, but distracted, impaired, or irresponsible drivers are more often to blame. When a vulnerable road user makes a mistake, they put themselves in danger; when a motorist makes a mistake, they endanger everyone on the road.

Contact Will Davidson LLP

If you or a member of your family has been injured in a traffic accident in Toronto, Oakville, or anywhere else in Ontario, contact Will Davidson LLP to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our team of experienced personal injury lawyers has helped thousands of Ontarians access fair and reasonable compensation for the injuries they have incurred. We will evaluate your claim, explain your options and the legal process, and provide guidance and support as you navigate the difficult road to recovery.

With decades of experience in Canadian personal injury and insurance defence law, Will Davidson LLP has the experience and expertise to ensure that you are fairly compensated for the damages you have experienced. We also understand the unique mental, physical, and financial hardships that accompany a serious personal injury or long-term disability. For that reason, we are proud to work on a contingency basis, meaning you will never be asked to pay hourly or upfront legal fees. Instead, we will accept as payment a percentage of your negotiated settlement. This arrangement provides clients with the freedom and flexibility necessary to fund their recovery during the lengthy litigation process.

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.

Request a free consultation

COPYRIGHT 2021 © WILL DAVIDSON LLP