2015 saw 38 pedestrians struck and killed on Toronto streets – the most annual fatalities of this kind in the past five years. The most vulnerable pedestrians – young children and the elderly – account for the majority of these deaths, with over 60% being seniors.
According to the Chief Coroner’s Report on Pedestrian Deaths in Ontario, children and seniors are the most vulnerable pedestrians for a number of reasons, including being more easily distracted and having difficulty judging distance and speed. In addition, a child’s smaller stature makes it naturally harder for drivers to see them and some seniors find it difficult to cross the roadway quickly to get out of harm’s way.
It is estimated that each year in Ontario, roughly 20 school-aged pedestrians are killed by collisions with school buses in school zones.
To address the growing number of pedestrian deaths, new laws came into effect on January 1, 2016 to improve road safety for all pedestrians and specifically for school children. The new laws include a requirement for drivers and cyclists to stop – and remain stopped – at pedestrian crossovers, school crossings, and any intersection where a crossing guard is present, until the pedestrians and crossing guard have crossed the entire roadway. Prior to this law, drivers could proceed once their lane of traffic was clear.
Contrary to common misconceptions, this rule does not apply to pedestrian crosswalks at intersections controlled by stop signs, pedestrian signals or traffic lights, unless a crossing guard is present. The difference between a crosswalk and crossover is further explained here.
Failure to obey the new law will result in fines ranging from $150 – $500. The fines will double in community safety zones, which typically include roadways near schools, playgrounds, parks, and retirement homes. Drivers will also face up to 3 demerit points.
Drivers must make safety a priority and respect the rules of the road. Toronto Public Health recently reported that in 2/3 of pedestrian deaths or injuries, the motorist had committed a traffic violation. Let’s hope that the implementation of these new laws is a step in the right direction for pedestrian safety and safer roads in 2016.