Sunday, May 30, 2010

Do we tolerate too many traffic deaths?

This is the title of a New York Times article from May 27, 2010. Some of the people who I receive regular updates from their writings and agencies were interviewed for the article.

I don't respond to a many articles I read but this one I felt compelled to. The reason? This is a topic that I agree completely with. We DO tolerate too many traffic deaths.

Here is my response. (#41 of the comment section.) Does that mean I can say that I have been published in the NYT?!?

Do we tolerate too many traffic deaths? Yes we do!

I fail to see why there is a debate with this issue. One death on our roads is one too many. The goal of zero deaths is honourable, but not likely. Having said that, any progress to attaining that goal is worthwhile and necessary.

Recently the world went into a sate of panic and fear based on a disease that killed a few hundred people and was classified as a pandemic. Governments were throwing obscene amounts of money towards the prevention, treatment and education for the public and health officials.

Yet, the pandemic numbers of injured and dead from the H1N1 globally did not come close to the number of injured and dead in any civilized nation.

You can argue cause and reason, factors and formulas or environment and engineering all you want. The common denominator is human behaviour which leads to human error. The worlds safest roadways can become filled with the bodies of dead and injured by the factor of disregarding simple safety and common sense rules while the worst roads travelled with awareness, adherence to laws, operating within safety guides for the conditions and alert behaviours can be injury and death free.

I believe the media, insurance companies, governments and law enforcement bears the burden of one major problem in the acceptance of road deaths and injuries. The term accident became part of the vernacular of describing collisions and crashes somewhere along the way and has cemented itself there.

Accident makes the liability, blame and cause of collisions minimal at best and creates an escape clause for those responsible for the event. I saw an insurance company website recently that promoted a "responsibility project" that used the term accident all through their material. If any industry has a reason to put blame and fault where it belongs, its the insurance industry.

Collisions are predictable and preventable. Drive distracted, impaired, fatigued, aggressive, unaware or unskilled and you will cause injuries and or death.

Do we tolerate too many traffic deaths? Yes we do. One person with one gun and fifteen bullets on a rampage would be national headlines for days/months. That persons actions, background, triggers, soci-economic status and position n society would make for grand headlines and debate.

One person with one car driving impaired or aggressive, distracted or unskilled has at any given moment in a city or urban environment, the potential to kill many, many more people, but yet we respond with barely a raised eyebrow at that person being arrested or crashing without incident.

Last point. Think of the money that is directed to health care and the legal industries from the results of collisions. Billions of dollars to treat the injured, facilitate long term disability changes, prosecute accused persons, incarcerate those and pay for the ensuing law suits. I have no idea how much money is directed to just those two ares, but suffice to say; could you imagine how many hungry children could be fed with that money. How many seniors could receive better and more adequate health care. How many veterans could be honourably be taken care of for their service to our countries. The laundry list of positive uses of the redirection of those monies is long and far better for the overall good of our communities.

Do we tolerate too many traffic deaths? Yes, sadly we do. So lets stop tolerating them. Train better drivers, punish those appropriately who endanger public safety, place the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of those that deserve it and treat the totality of event for what they ongoing pandemic.

Sgt. Tim Burrows
Toronto Police Service - Traffic Services

Photo credit: Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel, via Associated Press

Monday, May 17, 2010

Baby to Booster, Choosing the right child safety seat.

I am often asked about the installation of infant, child and booster seats. I have two advantages over the average person to be able to talk about this.
1.) I'm a police officer that has been trained in the installation and inspection of the various seats and anchoring systems and;
2.) I'm a parent that at one time had all three systems in my vehicles.
(The joy of having 3 close in age but different in weights)

As a police officer, I have seen the devastation that is done to families from the non-use, improper use or improper installation of the child safety seats.

As a parent, there is nothing more important to me than ensuring that my children are protected as best as possible while travelling in a motor vehicle.

One thing that never fails to surprise me is the panic phone calls from parents on the day they are to take their children home from the hospital needing an emergency installation. Did you not know that you were having a baby in the previous 9 months or so and did you read the instruction manual. I have owned 14 child safety seats from 6 different manufacturers. All of them came with excellent step by step instructions.

There are three important gauges to consider which child safety system is best for your children.
  • Age
  • Height
  • Weight

All children must be in one form of safety seat. Infant rear facing/forward facing, toddler forward facing and child booster.

The driver of a motor vehicle is responsible for occupants under the age of 16 to be restrained properly. As the driver you may be charged with several offences for not having the occupants restrained. In Ontario there is a simple law that applies, one person, one seat belt.


Newborn babies and infants require special protection while in a vehicle. In a collision, using properly installed rear-facing car

seats can save your child's life.

Infant car seats should face the back of the vehicle, rest at a 45-degree angle and move no more than 2.5 cm (1 in.) where the seat belt or Universal Anchorage System (UAS) strap is routed through the child car seat.

If necessary, use a towel or a foam bar (pool noodle) under the base of the child car seat to adjust the angle. Harness straps should sit at or below a baby's shoulders. You should not be able to fit more than one finger underneath the harness straps at the child's collarbone. The chest clip should be flat against the chest at armpit level.

When the child outgrows the maximum height and weight of his/her infant seat, you may require a convertible rear-facing seat until your child is ready to be facing forward. The law requires using a rear-facing car seat until the baby is at least 9 kilograms (20 lb.)

The law is a minimum requirement. It’s best to keep your child rear-facing until they are at least one year old or until they have reached either the maximum height or weight limits of the rear-facing seat.
  • Birth to 9 kg (20 lb.)
  • Rear-facing seat
  • Use away from an active airbag

My Personal Tips: 80 to 90 % of all infant installations are done improperly. The number one problem that we have seen...people are afraid to snug it down. I always put a knee in the seat and all my weight on the seat when I was securing my children's seats. There can not be more than 1" of movement in any direction. Yes, this requires some flexibility on your part, but it's your children we are talking what you have to.

A child can start riding facing forward when he or she is at least 9

kg (20 lb.).

To prevent the car seat from moving forward and causing injury in a collision, it is important to use the tether strap exactly as the manufacturer recommends. If your vehicle does not have a tether anchor in place, contact a dealership to have one installed.

To install a forward-facing car seat, fasten the tether strap, then use your body weight to tighten and fasten the seat belt or Universal Anchorage System (UAS) strap.

Ensure that the shoulder straps are at or above the child's shoulders. Straps should be snug, with only one finger width between the strap and the child's chest. Avoid using aftermarket car seat products. They can become projectiles or may have hard or sharp surfaces that can hurt the child in a collision.

  • 9 to 18 kg (20-40 lb.)
  • Forward-facing seat
  • Use with a tether strap

My Personal Tips: Same as for the rear facing...put your weight in there when you snug it down. Double check the installation at least once per week.

Pre-school to 8 years old
The law requires booster seats for children who have outgrown a child car seat but are too small for a regular seat belt.

Booster seats are required for children under the age of eight, weighing 18 kg or more but less than 36 kg (40-80 lb.) and who stand less than 145 cm (4 feet-9 inches) tall.
  • A child can start using a seat belt alone once any one of the following criteria is met:
    child turns eight years old
  • child weighs 36 kg (80 lb.)
  • child is 145 cm (4 feet-9 inches) tall.

Seat belts are designed to protect adults. Booster seats raise the child up so that the adult seat belt works more effectively. Booster seats protect against serious injury 3 ½ times better than seat belts alone.

A lap and shoulder combination belt must be used with all booster seats. Your child's head must be supported by the top of the booster, vehicle seat or headrest. The shoulder strap must lie across the child's shoulder (not the neck or face) and middle of the chest, and the lap belt must cross low over the hips (not the stomach/abdomen). Never use seat belt adjusters.

  • Between 18 and 36 kg (40—80 lb.)
  • Booster seat
  • Use with lap and shoulder belt

My Personal Tips: 1.) WATCH THEM. My children love to move the shoulder belt under their arms or right down to where the lap portion sits. I guess it gives them more range of motion to try and infuriate each other with touching and bugging. Gentle reminders are fun...locking clips are priceless. 2.) Don't be in a hurry to move them out...they do offer a great deal of added protection. It is better to be safe than sorry. If they are on the edge, let them stay put.

For tips on installation, visit the Ministry of Transportation Website by clicking here.

For more information from the Toronto Police Service on Child safety seats, click here.

For Child Safety Seat Inspection Information by the Toronto Police Service call 416-808-1975.

Information was provided in part by the MTO. Images courtesy of SafeKids.

What do you think? Have you had trouble installing child seats or have a story about how they protected your children. Let me know. Comments are welcomed!!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Reclined seat makes deadly catapult

Reprinted from article appearing on, by Jill McIntosh, see original article and comments by clicking here.

Always sit up straight. My mother drilled that into me when I was little, because it was considered good manners at the dinner table. In a vehicle, you need to do it because it can save your life.

Airbags and seatbelts affect what happens to occupants in a crash, and what they do depends on how you’re sitting. If you’re in the wrong position, they can be dangerous or even deadly.

In a recent U.S. decision, a jury awarded $1.8 million in damages against Hyundai when a young woman was ejected from a vehicle in a crash and killed. She’d been wearing her seatbelt, but had reclined the front passenger seat all the way back to take a nap, and she slid out from under the belt in the impact.

Sitting up straight not only keeps you in the seat, but it properly positions the belt over the strong bones in your shoulders and hips, which can take the impact. If you slip the shoulder belt under your arm, as many people do, it puts the belt over your weaker ribs, creating the potential for internal injuries.

The seatbelt also helps you to withstand the explosive force of the airbags. Many people don’t know how airbags work, because they’ve only seen them as fluffy pillows played for comic effect in movies, or slowly unfolding in crash-test videos. Those test films are extreme slow-motion: the bags inflate and deflate in milliseconds, so fast that you can’t see them otherwise (roll-sensing curtain airbags deploy just as quickly, but stay inflated for several seconds).

Those rock-hard bags are coming toward you at some 300 km/h. They’ll break your arm if you hold the wheel underhanded on a turn; they’ll kill a dog sitting on your lap; and if you’re dumb enough to ride with your feet up on the dash, the doctor will first extract your femur bone out of what’s left of your pelvis, and then probably tell you that you’ll never walk properly again.

It’s just as important to sit properly in the back seat. Even if there are no airbags back there, sitting correctly with the seatbelt on prevents being thrown around in a collision. If back-seat passengers aren’t belted in, they can be hurled forward with enough force to cause serious injuries when they collide with front-seat passengers.

It’s especially important to ensure that children are in the correct positions, whether they’re in carriers, booster seats, or are old enough to wear a seatbelt alone. Child seats can be difficult to install properly; if you’re not sure, you can call Toronto Police Services at 416-808-1975 to ask about having yours inspected.

Most people never read the owner’s manual that comes with the vehicle, but every one includes a section on proper seating positions and seatbelt use. Depending on your vehicle, there can be airbags over the side windows, in the sides of the front or rear seats, and even under the dash to protect your knees. Find out where they’re located and what you need to do so that they help instead of harm you.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Smart Phone App PSA.wmv has announced a new Smart Phone App for helping you find a safe way home after you have been drinking. Our advice is simple, "If you drink, don't drive."
But if you didn't plan ahead, here is a great tool to help you out.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Life or Death...Which one do you want?

A couple of weeks ago, the Toronto Police took part in the Provincial Spring Seat Belt Campaign. We do this every year to support our other policing and safety partners to raise awareness, educate the public and of course give out some tickets. (Yes, there is your opportunity to tell me that this is just another cash grab, revenue generating program...but before you do that remember, its your choice if you want a ticket or not.)

One of our major points of focus this year was child safety seats. Through several inspection
clinics that we run every year across Toronto we regular see 80 to 90 percent of child seats that are installed incorrectly.

As a police officer, I have seen first hand the importance. You only need to see the pain in a parents face as their child is attended to by medical staff because they suffered injuries which could have been prevented had their child been properly restrained. As a father I know the importance of ensuring my children are always restrained properly in their child safety seats.

The biggest problem that I have seen about improper car seat installations is that they are simply not in tight enough. Parents put the seat belts around the seat or the latch system in place snug it down and then that's it. What about when the child gets in the seat? Do you not think their weight will create extra movement on the seat since it is no longer snug?

So, when you put your seat in, put your weight on it...pull the belts tight. Once your weight is out of it, the seat won't move. Some parents have told me that they are afraid of putting wight in it because they don't want to break it! Come on, let it break then as opposed to in a crash. (The reality is it won't break).

One of the most frustrating calls we receive is from a frantic father who has been told that he can't take his child home from the hospital because he doesn't have a proper car seat. WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING FOR THE LAST 9 MONTHS...Didn't have enough time?

You can call 416-808-1975 to get information on child seat inspection clinics that are near you.

The last thing I want to talk about is what a seat belt is designed to do. It is not designed to save your life or prevent injuries. It is designed to keep you in your car and in your seat.
  • Does it save lives? YES
  • Does it reduce injuries? YES
  • Have people died while wearing them? YES
  • Have people been injured while wearing them? YES
Have less people been killed and have less injuries occurred? YES

The law is:
  • One belt / one person
  • All under 16 must be belted (driver responsible)
  • Lap and shoulder belt must be worn properly
  • All seat belts must function if someone is sitting in that spot
There are no exemptions for:
  • "I was only going a short distance."
  • "I just got back in the car after a quick stop."
  • "But, my kids were acting up."
  • "This is the first time I haven't worn it."
If you are on the road, your belt has to be on your body. If your children are in the car, they have to be secured in their properly installed seats.

Which price would you rather pay? Death or injury. Life or death, which one do you want?

Want to leave a comment? Agree, disagree? Let me know what you think. What if Health Care refused to cover you for injuries that were caused by the lack of use of a sat going through the windshield.

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Monday, May 3, 2010

Amber Lights...MEAN STOP!!

A couple of weeks ago, I was waiting to cross a fairly large intersection. I was crossing on foot from the south to the north. I watched the east/west lights signal to amber. Like I always have, I watched the vehicles that A.) needed to continue through the intersection, B.) the ones that should have stopped and C.) the ones that were stopped waiting to turn do so, and then D.) finally the dance of danger was complete when the red light runners made their way through.

A few hours later I watched it all unfold, but this time as a driver, not a pedestrian. 3 cars turned on the amber. 1 in the intersection, 1 on the stop line, 1 from behind the stop line. A pedestrian crossing had to hold for the last car to clear before hustling his butt across the road.

So once I got to my destination, I Tweeted this:

I received several comments that indicated to me that some education was required so here it is.
Ontario Highway Traffic Act, Section 144 covers the following information regarding Amber Lights:

Amber light

(15) Every driver approaching a traffic control signal showing a circular amber indication and facing the indication shall stop his or her vehicle if he or she can do so safely, otherwise he or she may proceed with caution. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 144 (15).

Amber arrow

(16) Every driver approaching a traffic control signal showing an amber arrow indication only or in combination with another indication and facing the indication shall stop his or her vehicle if he or she can do so safely, otherwise he or she may proceed with caution to follow the direction shown by the amber arrow indication. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 144 (16).

Flashing amber

(17) Every driver approaching a traffic control signal showing a flashing circular amber indication and facing the indication may proceed with caution. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 144 (17)

Pretty simple, if its amber, your first priority is to stop safely. 2nd, if you can't stop safely, you must proceed with caution.

So in the simplest of terms, an amber light means STOP. Most people see it only as warning that the light is about to change red so they take the chance that they can make it through. We have seen so many collisions because of that mentality. Drivers waiting to turn figuring they have to clear the intersection and the drivers coming towards them assume that they will make it on the amber. The driver making the turn can't move until they are sure that the turn can be made safely. I have investigated many collisions like this and the turning driver believes that they had the right of way because they had to get out of the intersection. (Another blog post at another time).

But, here is something hardly anyone knows. Failing to stop for an amber light, used to carry the same penalties as red light offences. Cost to you for a failing to stop for amber? $180 + 3 demerit points. ( Just recently red light offences monetary penalty increased.)

Specific Situation - Turns

Technically, you can not enter an intersection unless you can clear that intersection in one motion without impeding other traffic (which includes pedestrians and cyclists).

We all know that when you are turning left, you enter the intersection, wait for oncoming traffic to clear and then turn...after looking to make sure your path is clear (which includes pedestrians and cyclists).

What happens when the light turns amber? Well, since you are in the intersection you have to clear it. So once it is safe to do so, you clear. But, what we often see is four or five more cars that were waiting use the amber time to turn, which usually also means the red light time. This is dangerous and leads to reduced traffic flow as the cross traffic has to wait for you to clear.

If you are stopped behind the stop line, you CAN NOT PROCEED on an amber. Offence? Yes, Amber light, fail to stop or what normally happens...Red Light, proceed before green because the light has changed. (On a side note...I used to camp out and lay those charges at many intersections downtown. Ever drive from SB University to EB Adelaide?)

So here is the big conclusion:

Amber Light = Stop if safe to do so

Red Light = Stop

Green Light = Proceed with caution, if safe to do so

Whats your thought on this? Is there anymore clarification required? Tell me if you have been in any of those situations.