Is Canada Falling Behind on Road Safety?

Serious car accidents continue to occur in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), despite restrictive physical distancing measures in place to arrest the spread of COVID-19. On March 30, one person was killed in a single vehicle accident at Toronto’s Exhibition Place; on April 3, another fatality occurred in a three-car crash near Islington and Steeles Avenues; and on April 4, a cyclist was struck and injured in the city’s Rexdale neighbourhood. For car accident lawyers, these events are a reminder that road safety reforms are urgently needed in Ontario, and that injury victims will continue to require legal assistance, even in the midst of a pandemic.

Before COVID-19 came to dominate headlines around the world (rightfully so), road safety issues were a major concern in several Canadian jurisdictions. Forty-two pedestrians were killed on the streets of Toronto in 2019, the same number as the previous year and the most since 50 people were killed in 2002. Fifteen motorists, six motorcyclists, and a cyclist were also killed.

In Ottawa, the deaths of three cyclists in 2019 attracted significant media attention and added urgency to the city’s new road safety plan. The picture is even grimmer in several remote and rural communities: drivers in Northern Ontario are nearly twice as likely to be killed in an accident as their neighbours in the south. In Yukon, the 2017 traffic fatality rate was 18.2 per 100,000, more than three times the then national rate of 5.0 per 100,000.

The news isn’t all bad, of course. Fatal traffic accidents have slowly declined over the past decades in Canada, as have rates of drunk driving. But road safety experts, including car accident lawyers, are concerned that the country is falling behind.

In 2019, the City of Oslo, Norway’s capital, recorded zero traffic deaths. It reached this milestone by enacting a series of sweeping infrastructure and policy changes, including reducing speed limits and improving demarcation between cycling and driving lanes. The policies are largely in line with Sweden’s ‘Vision Zero’ philosophy, which aims to eliminate deaths and serious injuries by making safety central to infrastructure and transportation decisions.

Vision Zero has been adopted, often to great effect, by cities around the world, including some much closer to home, such as New York. In Canada, Vision Zero was first adopted by Edmonton, in 2015, and later by Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, and Hamilton, among others. Halifax and Ottawa have road safety strategies that embrace parts of Vision Zero without explicitly targeting zero deaths.

Unfortunately, many Canadian cities have struggled to reduce traffic deaths, and have particularly struggled to protect vulnerable road users. Critics believe a paradigm shift is necessary for these goals to be accomplished: decision makers must prioritize safety over efficiency and convenience.

In an expansive article for the Ottawa Citizen, Elizabeth Payne, the recipient of a traffic safety fellowship with the International Centre for Journalists, spoke with Ottawa city councillor Catherine McKenney about the city’s road safety shortcomings. While McKenney supports the many of the measures included in the city’s new road safety strategy, she believes it is inherently flawed by its failure to target zero deaths.

“The plan is a better plan than we have ever had in this city,” McKenney said. “But the key piece missing is Vision Zero. Without that, we are accepting that road deaths are normalized, that they’re OK. Without establishing a goal of zero, it means that we don’t acknowledge that every single death on our roadway is preventable. And every single death is preventable.”

As car accident lawyers, our team encounters seriously injured accident victims on a daily or weekly basis. We are acutely aware of the devastating, lifelong impacts that a serious motor vehicle accident injury can have. For us, the central tenets of the Vision Zero strategy – lower speed limits, improved safety infrastructure, respect for all road users – are common sense. But for people who have never been affected by a serious motor vehicle accident, these measures can appear costly, inefficient, and unwarranted. As a result, road safety improvements are often pushed to the political backburner, which leads to frustration among advocates.

“One of the things that frustrates me is that it doesn’t get the priority it needs,” road safety expert Neil Arason told Payne. “Every year, a couple of thousand people are killed on our roads and 10,000 to 15,000 people are seriously injured. We just accept it.”

“It’s not hard to see these traffic deaths are easily preventable. That is what is so frustrating,” added Graham Larkin, executive director of Vision Zero Canada. “Is [Vision Zero] doable in Canada? Yes, it is doable anywhere. The same principles apply. You often hear excuses made. We build excuses like the Dutch build infrastructure. They will just go ahead and fix things whereas we will tend too often to say, ‘Well, you know it can’t happen here.’”

There is no telling how long the COVID-19 pandemic will linger in Canada. Restrictions on movements could be eased as early as late spring, or could last into 2021. During this time, it is essential that Canadian road safety activists and their political allies continue to emphasize the importance of their mission. Fatal and serious traffic accidents continue to occur every day, even amid this largescale lockdown. The people injured in those accidents are as important today as they were before the pandemic.

If you or a member of your family have been injured in an accident, contact the car accident lawyers at Will Davidson LLP to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our team is accepting new clients during the COVID-19 lockdown and would be happy to discuss your case.

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.

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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.

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.

Ontarians Still Reeling from 2016 Changes to Auto Insurance System

In June 2016, the then-Liberal Government of Ontario introduced major changes to the province’s auto insurance system. Presented as an effort to reduce premiums, the changes significantly reduced available accident benefits and altered the definition of catastrophic impairment, making it more difficult for car accident lawyers to secure fair compensation for their clients. As a recent Global News story illustrates, the now-three-year-old changes continue to have devastating impacts on accident victims.

The Global report focuses on 32-year-old Ben Schenk, who incurred a traumatic brain injury after a crash on Ontario Highway 400 this May. As of July 5, Schenk’s family was waiting to learn whether their insurance company would classify his injuries as “catastrophic.” The decision will have a profound effect on the family’s ability to sustain itself. If his injuries are deemed catastrophic, Schenk will have access to up to $1-million in combined medical, rehabilitation, and attendant care benefits. If they are deemed non-catastrophic, he will have access to just $65,000 in benefits, not nearly enough to cover his rehabilitation.

Schenk’s situation is not unusual for Ontario car accident victims post-June 2016. Patients often wait more than a year to learn their injury designation, a period during which they are in limbo.

“The patient, the client, is in no man’s land until their injury manifests over a six-month period, if not a year, before we can give them any certainty of whether or not they can get the designation,” one lawyer told Global News. “And then when our assessors conclude that they believe they meet the test, then the insurance company notoriously has their own assessors re-evaluate the matters, which causes further delay. It takes typically a year and a half before they get the designation where before June 1, 2016, it would take a matter of weeks.”

Even when catastrophic impairment benefits are awarded, the coverage falls far short of pre-2016 levels. Prior to the Liberal Government’s changes, catastrophically injured accident victims had access to $1-million in medical and rehabilitation benefits, plus $1-million in attendant care benefits. Non-catastrophically injured victims had access to up to $86,000 in benefits; today they have access to just $65,000. Many car accident lawyers advise purchasing additional insurance to cover the gap.

“Regular car insurance is not enough to cover your needs if you’re seriously injured,” the lawyer added. “And it should be. It should be designed to provide the bare minimum of what you need.”

If you or a member of your family has been injured in an automobile accident in Ontario, contact Will Davidson LLP today to learn how our team of experienced car accident lawyers can help. We can provide guidance and representation as you pursue benefits or initiate a personal injury claim.

Image credit: zmtomako/Flickr

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

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.

 

 

Driving Safe in Winter Means Knowing When to Change Your Tires

The Globe and Mail reports, ‘the rubber in all-season tires starts to harden when the temperature drops below 7C.’ Tires are that important liaison between the vehicle and the road. After all, tires bring into the real world the claimed performance characteristics of the vehicle. That said, tires have a much narrower performance window as compared to other components of the car.

Given the severe winter weather that Ontario experiences for a significant part of the year, it is curious that drivers are not clearly aware of when to put on winter tires. Only British Columbia and Quebec have taken active measures that require drivers to install winter tires.

When to put on winter tires

The Traffic Injury Research Foundation, a Canadian road safety research institute, notes an almost 50% increase in accidents due to skidding in winter conditions. In fact, contrary to their colloquial name – snow tires – winter tires should be installed on a vehicle two weeks before the first snow and kept on until about two weeks after the last snow of the season. Their advantage lies not only in the deeper tread depth, but also the lower operating temperature of the rubber, which retains offers superior traction, steering and braking compared to all-season and summer tires.

Personal injury arising out of car accidents

In a car accident, ascertaining liability is key to evaluating the claim. That a driver did not know when to put on winter tires is an important factor in terms not only of compensation but also the insurance claim. Whereas a conscientious driver will keep their vehicle in safe mechanical fettle, one can ask, and compellingly so: is installing winter tires not equally important to meeting the standards of a safe driver, even if not specifically legislated to do so?

Third party investigators, independent analysis and witnesses will all play an important part in determining the outcome of the claim. Was the vehicle privately owned or a part of a rental fleet which was otherwise required to have winter tires – questions such as these will influence liability hugely.

Anyone having suffered personal injury may have more than one option to getting fair compensation for their injuries and loss of livelihood. Other than a claim under tort against the person at fault, there can be an accident benefit component too.

Car accident claims and suits, particularly those precipitated by wintery conditions require a deft and experienced touch. At Will Davidson LLP you know you have the expertise and resources at hand to get the fair and justiciable compensation you deserve for injuries you or your family have sustained.

Our Oakville car accident lawyers have over 90 years of experience handling catastrophic injury, trauma and other personal injury claims. Get in touch with our team to discuss the options you or your loved ones have to seek compensation for injury suffered due to a car accident.

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