In 2017, 41% of all pedestrian-vehicle accidents in Toronto occurred at intersections. It’s a busy city, and people certainly love their cars, but the increasing injuries and deaths suggest something may need to change. A U.S. study showed that over 90% of all accidents at intersections were the driver’s fault. What can drivers and pedestrians do to reduce these numbers?
It’s important to understand how intersection accidents happen in the first place. The most recent statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, indicate several causes:
- Insufficient surveillance of the surrounding area (44.1%)
- Wrong assumptions about how other drivers would react (8.4%)
- Obstructed view when turning (7.8%)
- Illegal action or maneuver (6.8%)
- Distracted driving (5.7%)
- Misjudgment about the other driver’s speed or the gap between vehicles (5.5%)
If 90% of accidents are the fault of drivers, that means a percentage of pedestrians can be at fault as well. Pedestrians must obey traffic signals and look out for possible dangers. When an accident occurs at an intersection or crosswalk and the pedestrian is responsible, it’s likely because they weren’t following the rules of the road (e.g. crossing against the light). While the onus is on vehicle drivers to be as careful as possible, pedestrians need to stay alert, and those lessons should start at a young age.
When drivers engage in activities that cause accidents, those walking on the road are at huge risk. This can occur even if they are simply standing on the corner. People can be more severely injured without the protective shell of a car. Learning to be alert is something that can be taught quite early. Watching and listening at all times can help reduce a pedestrian’s vulnerability.
The following tips from Parachute Canada can help parents give their children the skills needed to navigate the roads independently, and reduce their risk of injury:
Be a role model
Talk to your child about safe pedestrian practices while you walk with them. Over time, your frequent demonstrations will become ingrained in their approach to crossing roads. Remember, if you jaywalk, or run across a street against a light with your child, or talk on your cell phone while walking, you can expect them to do the same thing when they are crossing the street independently. Model smart behaviour for them. Ask others who are responsible for your child’s welfare to discuss safe crossing when they accompany your child on outings.
Talk about what you do before you cross a road
Teach your child to use their eyes and ears. Always think, look, and listen (even if there is a crossing guard on duty or traffic signals to assist them).
Convey information appropriate to your child’s level of understanding
Discussions about safety can come naturally. There are many opportunities and circumstances that invite a brief comment (or teaching moment), such as:
- Weather conditions change (e.g. snow, fog, rain)
- A ball goes over the fence and onto the road
- Witnessing jaywalking or other unsafe pedestrian practices
- Taking (or deciding on) a new route to school or the playground
- Visiting a new place
- Moving to a new neighbourhood
- It’s a child’s first time walking with friends
- A child is preparing to walk alone for the first time
To cross a street safely by themselves, children need three important skills:
- Ability to choose and use a safe crossing route
- Ability to properly assess a vehicle’s speed
- Ability to judge safe gaps in traffic
Drivers must remember that if they strike a pedestrian with their car, the onus is on the driver to show they were not negligent, and that awareness is necessary to prevent accidents. Should a driver run a crosswalk, they can be fined up to $1000 with four demerit points. If you should get charged with careless driving causing bodily harm, the fines can be up to $50,000, six demerit points, and up to two years in jail.
Service Ontario suggests the following safety tips to increase driver alertness and reduce accident risk:
- Always look for pedestrians, especially when turning.
- Watch for children. Drive slowly and cautiously through school zones, residential areas, or any other area where children could be walking or playing.
- Watch out for Community Safety Zone signs that indicate areas where public safety is a special concern, including the possibility of encountering pedestrians.
- Be patient (especially with seniors or pedestrians with disabilities) who need more time to cross the road.
- Drive carefully near streetcar stops; watch for passengers getting on and off — especially when islands or zones might confuse where they disembark. After the doors close, pass streetcars at reasonable speeds, and always be ready to stop in case pedestrians make sudden or unexpected moves.
- At the core of all of these tips is being a watchful and patient driver. Impatience is a key factor in many accidents including road rage (i.e. impatient and aggressive driving). It is cited as the top cause of collisions (66% of all accidents are blamed on aggressive driving). When drivers learn to keep their cool and focus on the job of safely operating their vehicle, the chance for an accident is reduced. Focus on being a defensive driver, not an offensive driver.
Accidents can, and will, happen. The important thing for everyone on the road to remember is to be aware and be careful. Drivers need to watch for those unprotected humans, especially the young ones. Drive carefully in school zones, and be acutely aware of crosswalk signs. Do not drive through the crosswalk until all pedestrians are safely on the sidewalk — it’s the law. Pedestrians: Obey signals and stay alert. Reducing the number of traffic injuries is everyone’s responsibility.
If you’ve been injured in a pedestrian or vehicle collision, consult a professional personal injury lawyer in Toronto with dedication and experience in cases such as these. Call Michelle Linka Law in Richmond Hill at (416) 477-7288. Get the compensation you deserve by engaging the legal experts in pedestrian accidents. Contact us to schedule a free consultation.