Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Traffic safety and what it means to the Toronto Police Service

Traffic safety is a priority for the Toronto Police Service.  Traffic Services has been mandated to investigate serious personal injury and fatal collisions in the city of Toronto.  

On Monday December 10, 2012 the Toronto Police Service answered 8 calls in 43 minutes beginning at 6:41 am and ending at 7:24 am, for pedestrian struck collisions.  Certain events that have occurred since these collisions have inspired me to write this Blog.

During this time period a number of contributing factors became evident and as a result this information was relayed via Twitter to the media and general public in order to promote pedestrian safety. We are offering advice to people on situations that we are dealing with and our experience on what we encounter.

The factors were as follows:

1) Poor lighting conditions (pre-dawn hours)
2) Driver error
3) Wet roads
4) Rain 
5) Pedestrians wearing clothing that in the dark made them hard, if not impossible, for drivers to see

These factors resulted in collisions.  Statements taken from drivers at the scene as well information received by the call takers at the communications center made clear mention of two common factors. The pedestrians were wearing dark clothing and the drivers did not see them.  

We are telling the public what the drivers who were involved have stated as fact.  They did not see the pedestrians. It is hard to believe that anyone operating a motor vehicle would intentionally strike a pedestrian.  A number of the pedestrians in fact did nothing wrong and the drivers were charged. There are no regulations in law that direct a person as to what they may or may not wear, collision facts speak for themselves and the Toronto Police Service will not tell a person what to wear. 

Vehicles, whether they are bicycles, cars, or trucks, are required by the Highway Traffic Act to have reflectors, horns, lighting, and other safety equipment in order to make themselves visible to other road users and to protect the operators.  Pedestrians have no such regulation and as a result are vulnerable road users.  In the perfect world there would be no collisions. 

I have spoken to cyclists today and they have also voiced concern over individuals using Martin Goodman Trail whether they were pedestrians, runners or cyclists dressed in dark clothing and while travelling poorly lit sections of the trail, almost striking these individuals.

In reality collisions are a caused occurrence and are a direct result of someone making an error.

I haven't missed a winter since I was born 41 years ago.  We always buy clothing that protects us from the elements.  But when do we use our snow boots...... when it snows, when do we use our gloves, hat, scarf, and winter jacket with the hood....... when it gets really cold.  Our environment changes rapidly during the fall and winter, our habits however don't, we continue to cross the roadways like it is a summer day while wearing our winter gear.

On November 30, 2012, the GTA recorded its first significant snowfall. Drivers who haven't driven in the snow for almost two years were literally stopped in their tracks. 

I ask the road using community as a whole to be cautious. 

Drivers, slow down, take a second look and proceed only when it is safe to do so.

Pedestrians, be aware of your surroundings and do what we were taught when we were children: stop, look, listen and think before you cross the roadways. Wear an article of clothing that would make you more conspicuous to other road users. 

Cyclists, obey all traffic laws and help protect yourself. 

One life lost or injured is one too many. 

Do your part to protect yourself.



  1. Sorry, Clint. Perhaps my response can be better articulated here than on Twitter.

    The problem, at least from my standpoint, isn't the lack of response from TPS. Rather, it's the nature of it.

    As you note above, and the media has also acknowledged, pedestrian error did not cause these incidents. Indeed, it is rarely the fault of pedestrians and cyclists when collisions occur.

    The problem, as I see it as a cyclist and pedestrian, is drivers being careless on the roads. In particular, being careless towards other road users, namely cyclists pedestrians.

    This doesn't mean that drivers are being malicious and intentionally trying to hit/hurt other users of the road. (Although I and many others can offer our own anecdotes about experiences where drivers did seem intent on intimidating and potentially hitting us.) It means they are not considerate of how their actions behind the wheel of a dangerous vehicle might affect other road users.

    When this carelessness involves cars only, we typically get fender benders and other collisions that rarely involve serious injuries and death (though they certainly can).

    When this carelessness involves bicycles and pedestrians, it is almost inevitable that injuries, if not death, can occur.

    Thus, cyclists and pedestrians must use the roads every day carrying a fear of the possibility that carelessness by a driver could have fatal consequences.

    Under these circumstances, you and others advise that we take to the roads with all the safety gear and brightly coloured clothing we can muster.

    Well, frankly, it doesn't much matter whether we go out in plain clothes or dressed to the nines in neon battle armour. If drivers continue to be careless, cyclists and pedestrians don't stand a chance against the impact of a dangerous vehicle, or being bullied off the road into dangerous situations (e.g., potholes, road work, parked cars, curbs, etc.).

    Herein lies the problem - and the outrage with your response being articulated by cyclists and pedestrians like me.

    The message you are sending is that the onus is on cyclists and pedestrians to protect themselves. Well, under the circumstances, that's simply not an appropriate response, for all the aforementioned reasons.

    What's worse is that this message only serves to perpetuate and reinforce the carelessness that is so pervasive among drivers on the roads.

    In the absence of infrastructure that removes cyclists and pedestrians from the dangers posed by careless drivers on the roads, we must rely on authorities such as yourself to hold drivers accountable for their carelessness.

    Your response thus far doesn't do that. That is why it's unacceptable.

    Expand Reply Delete Favorite
    4m Robert Lawson ‏@LawsonRJ
    @TrafficServices Not necessarily about drivers being malicious (though it can be). It's about drivers not being MINDFUL of other road users.
    6m Robert Lawson ‏@LawsonRJ
    @TrafficServices As a cyclist/ped, I often fear for my safety on the roads. We can protect ourselves but we are at the mercy of drivers.

  2. I appreciate your taking the time to address this issue that has reflected poorly on your person and your department. It is clear you understand the importance of safe actions by all road users. However, the "I did not see him/her" defence is not one law enforcement organisations should take seriously.

    In fact, asserting that you did not seem someone, is a tacit admission of guilt. It implies that you were not practising due care and attention as required under the law. If a pedestrian was performing a legal manoeuvre, then the offending motorist is 100% at fault. The fact that the pedestrian was not wearing reflective clothing cannot count against them, as they are not legally obligated to do so. While it is true a pedestrian would be more visible with said clothing, this is not sufficient to remove any blame from the motorist.

    While you might be attempting to improve safety, the negative implication here is that motorists are somehow less guilty of negligence, because they have a catch all excuse. As you say, motorists do not want to hit pedestrians, but when they do, the "I did not see him/her" defence is being used as a way to cover up their negligence. As such, it should not be a defence that is taken seriously.

    Unfortunately, it is take seriously around the world and motorists are getting away with collisions/murders that are completely their fault. Your comments enforced that the "I did not see him/her" defence is acceptable, and clearly it is not. It is to admit that one is guilty of not paying the attention they are required to.

    When conditions are poor, it is a motorist's responsibility to drive accordingly. This involves slowing down, paying more attention at intersections, etc. Your initial comments did not adequately highlight this. You focussed far too much attention on pedestrian actions and not the offending actions of the motorists. As such, the criticisms directed toward you were justified.

    We all have a role to play in traffic safety, but ignoring the bull of the car in society's china shop of the road is foolish. Likewise, placing more blame on pedestrians in collisions for not doing something they do not need to do (wear reflective clothing) is irresponsible. Furthermore, accepting the "I did not seem him/her" defence is to promote further inappropriate use of this defence and ignores the negligence of the most dangerous road users.

    1. Hello Dæl.

      Traffic Services is not saying that the "I did not see him/her" is a defence, in reality drivers were charged, where it was determined that the driver was at fault.

      "In fact, asserting that you did not seem someone, is a tacit admission of guilt. It implies that you were not practising due care and attention as required under the law. If a pedestrian was performing a legal manoeuvre, then the offending motorist is 100% at fault." "While it is true a pedestrian would be more visible with said clothing, this is not sufficient to remove any blame from the motorist."

      I agree with these statements completely as long as the facts are examined and a determination of fault is made, but only after a complete investigation is performed and all evidence collected.

      Drivers, pedestrians and cyclists are held responsible for their actions and if found at fault for a collision the individual may be charged.

      Traffic safety is the mandate of Traffic Services, with the help of all road users we can make the roads a safer place for everyone.


    2. Hi there,
      My Grandfather is the 83 year old man, laying in the Critical Care Centre at Sunnybrook Hospital. He is fighting for his life. The damage is unknown. The fight will be long. And his life has changed forever.This was also the same walk, my Grandmother and him have been doing for years, and I mean years! They are scheduled. Very scheduled.
      Why has his life been dramatically altered? Because he was walking across the road, AT A CROSSWALK, and a young woman turning left hit him. He had the right of way, my Grandmother was only a few feet in front of him.
      How did a driver miss seeing him while making her left hand turn, at a well lit intersection? She clearly was not paying attention. Between cellphones, TV screens in cars, lighting a cigarette, opening your Tim Hortons, lets just say, drivers are distracted and NEED to be held ACCOUNTABLE for their actions.
      My Grandfather has never been ill, never had to take medication and as independent as ever. And now, when I look at him, I see a man who is unrecognizable (for now) due to being hit by a car that a person was driving, and was clearly careless.
      It should not matter the colour of the clothes you are wearing, unless you are jay walking, then take some responsibility. I get that. My Grandfather was not jay walking, he was crossing at a well lit intersection, with the right of way. The woman who hit him is at fault, and justice needs to be done.
      Seeing a person suffer due to another persons actions, intentional or not, is awful. And the young woman responsible, needs to be held responsible on every level. People need to learn that having a licence is a PRIVILEGE not a right.

  3. "And the Toronto Police will not tell a person what to wear..." but "wear an article of clothing that would make you more conspicuous."

    Smacks of victim-blaming to me. Howzabout a little crackdown on drivers who are shirking their responsibility to operate a two-tonne machine with care (i.e. two-hands on the wheel, two eyes on the road and no texting/talking on your cell)?

  4. Being careless or negligent does not make it intentional. If the pedestrian is crossing at an intersection, and a car is turning, if the driver can't see a pedestrian (regardless of clothing), then they are probably going too fast around that corner. They probably aren't taking due care. They probably aren't looking in their blind spot. They probably aren't making a complete stop before turning right on a red light. There are a dozen things that drivers can do to prevent these types of collisions.

    Yet you have resigned to the belief that it is sometimes "impossible" to see pedestrians in dark clothing.

    However, even if we resign to the flawed belief that it is sometimes "impossible" for a driver to see a pedestrian legally crossing an intersection (most of which are well lit in the city by the way). Even if we assume that the driver couldn't see the pedestrian at all, then if the driver turned that corner slowly and safely, they wouldn't do any serious harm to a pedestrian in the event that a collision does occur.

    So why not focus on prevention from the root cause instead of saying pedestrian clothing is the cause of these preventable collisions?