On June 15, 2016, a Globe and Mail article, “Fatal Crossings” brought attention to the fact that pedestrian deaths in Toronto have increased 15 per cent in the past five years. Most disturbingly, a pedestrian is struck every four hours, and on average, every 10 days a pedestrian dies.
Toronto Mayor John Tory expressed his concern with the growing number of pedestrian-vehicle collisions. “If you compare it to how much attention is paid each year to the number of people who are killed by homicide, or a number of other things, it has received less attention than it should, especially given the magnitude of the number.”
A disproportionate number of pedestrian deaths involve a large vehicle and/or a pedestrian over the age of 65. One of the key reasons for a significantly higher fatality rate for seniors is that they are three or four times more likely to die when hit by a vehicle going 30-50 km/hr than a young person. Yet, it is extremely important that older people continue to walk for exercise and are safe in doing so, in order to maintain their health and a higher quality of life. As a more active community corresponds with lower health care costs, we can conclude that an urban environment that discourages walking potentially has a negative effect on our entire society.
Most pedestrian fatalities are preventable. Police accident reports for Toronto show that driver carelessness or error accounts for 50-60 per cent of pedestrian fatalities. In a minority of cases, 25-30 per cent, pedestrian fatalities are associated with poor judgement or error on behalf of a pedestrian. The remaining causes were unknown.
There have been a number of suggestions and initiatives implemented in other cities to combat the problem of pedestrian accidents. Foremost, it requires a shift in mindset and recognition that pedestrian injuries and death are preventable, not simply an unavoidable outcome of urban life. Key solutions to this problem include more strictly enforcing driving laws, re-engineering roads so that mistakes or reckless actions are less likely to result in death, and reducing speed limits on city streets. It has also been suggested that education aimed at pedestrians can have an impact on safety, such as reminding everyone to always cross at an intersection or crosswalk.
The Globe and Mail criticizes Toronto administrators for failing to implement a broad plan to reduce pedestrian fatalities. Instead, Toronto is seemingly focusing its efforts on locations that have proven to be dangerous, which means that someone needs to be seriously injured or die before drivers are forced to slow down, through stricter speed enforcement and reductions in speed limits.
Speed is the most significant element affecting pedestrian injury and death. Being hit at 30 km/hr compares to falling from the 2nd floor of a building; being hit at 65 km/hr is like falling from the 5th floor. In the first case, most people will survive, but most die in the second case. Speed doesn’t only affect the likelihood of surviving, it also affects one’s ability to avoid a collision in the first place.
Although each of us has limited control in changing City regulations and law enforcement, every driver and pedestrian has control over their own behaviour and safety, as well as the safety of other road users. Someone who drives at an excessive speed or fails to monitor for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists, will ultimately be held accountable if their actions result in injury or death.
The Ontario Highway Traffic Act, section 193 specifies that in the event of a pedestrian-vehicle collision, the onus is on the driver of the vehicle to show that the accident was not caused by their negligence. This means that in a civil suit for damages, a pedestrian generally only needs to prove that the accident occurred and resulted in their injury and losses.
When loss or damage is sustained by any person by reason of a motor vehicle on a highway, the onus of proof that the loss or damage did not arise through the negligence or improper conduct of the owner, driver, lessee or operator of the motor vehicle is upon the owner, driver, lessee or operator of the motor vehicle.
(Highway Traffic Act, R.S.O. 1990)
As a rule, motorists are required to take due care in their driving, anticipate foreseeable pedestrian actions and take any necessary precautions to avoid a pedestrian-vehicle collision.
If you or a loved one were injured in a pedestrian accident, call the car accident lawyers at Kotak Law. Let us apply our extensive expertise in successfully settling pedestrian accident claims to your case, and get you the compensation you are owed.