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Pedestrian Fatality Cases & Vision Zero Plan: What happened?

The CBC Reported last month that nearly 58 pedestrians died as a result of car accidents on Toronto’s streets last year; with another 183 more reported as being seriously injured.

This is an alarming statistic given that 2021 was a year that saw rolling lockdowns due to the COVID-19 Pandemic resulting in fewer motorists on the road. Fewer drivers on the road resulted in fewer car accident claims. This trend was reported across Canada and in the United States where insurers saw large windfall profits on auto related insurance products. The savings have not been passed along to the consumer in the form of reduced car insurance premiums, but that’s a story for another edition of the Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog.

The City of Toronto has implemented a bold Vision Zero pledge to reduce the number of auto-pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries down to Zero. It’s a great goal, but since the Vision Zero program was announced, those fatality and serious injury cases to pedestrians have continued to steadily creep up.

Why is that?

Is the City not trying hard enough?

Are Toronto and GTA drivers simply the worst in the free world incapable of hitting pedestrians while driving?

Does it have something to do with the way Toronto’s streets are designed?

What can possibly explain why pedestrian fatality cases are so high in Toronto and the GTA?

Here are a few theories from the perspective of a personal injury lawyer. We see the devastating aftermath of these cases and the impact which they have on families and their loved ones.

Reason #1 Population Growth in Toronto and the GTA are outpacing infrastructure supports. There are hundreds of thousands of people who are moving to Toronto and the GTA each and every year. Add to that the thousands of people who come Toronto and the GTA from outside of the region to work, play or visit. Toronto’s population, just like the population of any city is fluid. Pre-pandemic the population would be larger on a workday, during work hours given the number of people flocking to town. Outside of work hours there would be fewer people in the City, but it’s still a very large place. And it’s because of this vast size that the City and the GTA need the infrastructure in place to support it.

The harsh reality is that Toronto does NOT have the proper infrastructure to support its current and its growing population.

Case in point the recent snow storm we had. Storms of this magnitude ought to be expected in a Canadian City. And this storm did not come as a surprise to anyone as the weather people had properly predicted it.linkedin-2-300x300

Yet when it came to mobilizing the snow plows and getting the City operational again, Toronto failed and continues to fail at the time of preparing this Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog Post. TTC Buses got stuck, with some remaining stuck, roads remain unplowed and the sidewalks are a total mess.

This does not even take into consideration the routine maintenance and upkeep which a large city like Toronto needs. Fixing pot holes, streetlights, street signs, new traffic studies for new developments and changes to residential areas. All of these things are take time, money and resources which the City has a hard time keeping up with. It’s as if they City is always one step behind and chasing the game; rather than in front of it.

Simply put, the infrastructure to support a City and a Region the size of Toronto isn’t there. And that likely won’t change anytime soon.

Reason #2: Public Transit is terrible in Toronto. Take away the stalled buses and streetcars due to the snow storm. Take away that Toronto’s subway is effectively a “U” with a line in the middle which barely touches a fraction of the geographic area that it’s supposed to serve. The subway has notorious signal problems because the system is long overdue for an update. But these updates have NOT rolled around because updating the system costs a lot of money (back to the infrastructure issue). Even on a nice bright and sunny day, the subway will stall or be delayed on account of these signal issues. Ask any operator of a TTC subway and they will tell you that the subway signal system is archaic and outdated. Certainly not in line with that of a large metropolis the size of Toronto. People will opt NOT to ride the subway when given the choice on account of theses issues. The subway also doesn’t go where it needs to go. Only in recent years has there been any digging of new tunnels to expand the subway lines, but those extensions are simply not enough to keep up with the growth of Toronto’s population. So when you have a bad subway system you will have more people driving which equates to more congestion and accidents. Want to clean up the streets? Spend more on transit and make it efficient, fast and a better way than the car and you will have safer streets.

Reason #3 Toronto and the GTA are winter weather climates: Ever notice how dark it gets in the winter time around 430PM? Ever notice how hard it is to drive on the snow, ice, or sleet? Have you tried walking on the sidewalks after a big snow storm when the sidewalks aren’t plowed? How’s your driving visibility at night during a winter weather storm?

All of these factors play in to why car accidents happen, particularly with pedestrians. Darkness and winter road conditions are create far from ideal driving conditions which will never change so long as Toronto remains a winter weather City. Canadians accept that winter is just a part of life and we deal with it. While people are told to stay off the roads, they don’t. Replace a winter snow fall with a typhoon, hurricane or torrential rainfall causing flooding. You will likely stay off the road for any of the above. But a snow storm isn’t going to stop Canadians from driving. And it’s that element of the Canadian psyche which might be part of the reason why Vision Zero and pedestrian fatality claims have not slowed down.

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