Traffic Accident Fatalities on the Rise: What Torontonians Need to Know

Posted November 11, 2016
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TORONTO, November 10, 2016 – When everyone claims the right of way, no one wins. That seems to be exactly what’s happening on Toronto’s streets as the number of traffic collisions and fatalities climbs.

“It is a real public safety issue and one that could get even worse as we transition from fall to winter,” says personal injury lawyer Leonard Kunka, a partner at Thomson Rogers. “With days getting shorter and snow on the horizon, poor visibility becomes a significant danger.”

Consider the numbers: Pedestrian deaths have increased 15% over the last five years. Already this year 70 people have been killed in traffic collisions, including 36 pedestrians.

Why are there more traffic accidents involving pedestrians?

Toronto Police Services spokesperson Constable Clinton Stibbe cites a few key contributing factors:  more pedestrians, cyclists, motorists and construction as the city continues to grow coupled with a lack of understanding of the rules of the road. “This is a shared responsibility between pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. Collisions are preventable, in order to be successful all road users in Toronto need to take responsibility for their own safety by being aware of their surroundings and the other road users around them.”

This understanding and shift in mindset is key to reducing the number of traffic accidents, says Leonard Kunka. “Everyone has to be aware. No one should just proceed and assume they have the right of way; proceed with caution, that’s the safest way to travel. Even if you do have the right of way, other people may not know that.”

Kunka shares a few key pieces of information to help keep everyone safe:

  • Some pedestrians may have a false sense of security because in Ontario they always have the right of way. However, they put themselves at risk by crossing mid-block instead of at crosswalks and well-marked intersections.
  • Cyclists are required to follow the same rules of the road as drivers, this includes coming to a full stop at a red light or stop sign. They are also responsible for ensuring that they are seen by drivers when riding on streets and inside bike lanes.
  • On January 1, 2016, new rules were introduced that require drivers and cyclists to stop and yield the whole roadway at pedestrian crossovers, school crossings and other locations where there is a crossing guard until the crosswalk is cleared.  Few drivers seem to know about this rule and continue to drive through crosswalks before pedestrians are safely on the sidewalk.
  • According to research from The Globe and Mail, the number of pedestrian victims in traffic fatalities over the past five years are disproportionately people over the age of 65, who may take longer to cross intersections than traffic lights allow. As the population ages, this upward trend is likely to continue.
  • Texting while driving has become so common, it’s now standard for lawyers to ask ‘Were you on the phone?’ on an examination for discovery in a lawsuit involving a collision. Of course, cyclists and pedestrians are also easily distracted by technology, often unable to hear oncoming traffic because they are listening to music on their headphones.
  • Pedestrians and cyclists should wear brightly coloured or reflective clothing/gear to make themselves visible to drivers, particularly now that there is less daylight and weather conditions impair visibility.

Ontario is encouraging pedestrians to stay focused and remain visible with its latest campaign, “Be Alert, Be Seen.” And the City of Toronto is also introducing a new road safety plan this winter based on Vision Zero, a Swedish approach to traffic safety that has cut pedestrian deaths by one-third in Stockholm and has been adopted by cities around the world.  By January, Toronto will have redesigned 14 intersections, installed 79 red light cameras and improved road markings at 317 locations. But is it enough?

“Drivers, cyclists and pedestrians all share the roads,” says Kunka.  “Everyone has to know the rules, be aware and do a better job of paying attention.”

Thomson Rogers is the largest personal injury law firm in Toronto and is also a leader in family law litigationclass actionscommercial litigation and land use litigation.

For more information or to arrange an interview please contact: Mary Ann Freedman, Freedman & Associates Inc. for Thomson Rogers at 416-868-1500 or by email to