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.

Do Canadians Need In-Car Speed-Limiting Technology?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How will legalized marijuana affect road safety?

Legalizing the sale and use of recreational marijuana was a central tenet of the platform that earned Canada’s Liberal Party a majority government in the last federal election. The policy has wide support among Canadians: according to a 2016 Nanos survey, around 43 per cent support the idea, and a further 26 per cent somewhat support it.

However, as the government prepares to table legislation, questions remain around the impact legalization could have on impaired driving rates. As car accident lawyers understand, driving under the influence of drugs produces similar results to drunk-driving, but presents unique challenges. In December, a federal task force said the government must take action to keep impaired drivers off the roads.

An important component of those efforts will be developing a reliable, breathalyzer-style test for marijuana. Today, officers who suspect a driver of being impaired can conduct standard roadside sobriety tests, and later call on a drug recognition expert with specialized training to confirm their suspicions. But from a car accident lawyers point of view, the lack of standardized testing tools produces legal grey areas.

“Drug-impaired driving is a problem, is a challenge, here in Canada today,” said Anne McLellan, the task force’s chair, told the CBC. “That is why the science is very quickly catching up. But are we there yet? No.”

RCMP, OPP, and other local law enforcement divisions are currently trialing roadside tests for marijuana in seven Canadian jurisdictions, and saliva tests have proven effective in Europe and Australia. Andy Murie, CEO of MADD Canada, believes drivers’ safety will depend on law enforcement deciding on and adopting a reliable tool to detect intoxication.

“If they don’t have the driving piece nailed down before you start retail sales of cannabis, you’re just going to kill a whole bunch more young people on the road,” he told the CBC.

This sentiment is also held by victims’ rights and road safety advocates, car accident lawyers, and law enforcement officials. Mario Harel, president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, told the CBC that “there are still a lot of questions on how they are going to determine what impairment is for drivers.”

While legislation to legalize marijuana is expected this spring, the man leading the Liberal’s legalization efforts, former Toronto police chief Bill Blair, is in no rush to push retail sales.

“We will take as much time as it takes to do it right,” Blair told the Financial Post. “I’m pretty reluctant to suggest a specific time frame, frankly, because I don’t know how long this will take in each of our 10 provinces and three territories.”

Determining how to recognize and measure marijuana impairment and enforce strict penalties for driving under the influence must be central to the Liberals’ policy-making goals. Indeed, crafting tough guidelines will be necessary to ensure Canada’s impaired driving rates continue to decline.

If you or a member of your family has been hurt in a car accident, whether caused by impaired driver or any other means, contact the car accident lawyers at Will Davidson LLP today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

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