In the wake of five pedestrian deaths this year, Toronto police on Tuesday launched a pedestrian safety enforcement and education campaign.
"We've got to change behaviour. We've got people in the city — drivers, pedestrians and cyclists — just not paying 100 per cent attention to what they're doing and it's resulting in people being killed," said Supt. Scott Baptist, unit commander of traffic services.
"We have to get people to do the most basic things, so we can all be safe."
According to police data, there's been seven deaths from motor vehicle collisions in 2018, five of which involved pedestrians. That represents a 250 per cent increase over the number of deaths at the same time last year.
Among those included in the statistics are a five-year-old girl who died after she was pinned between two vehicles outside her school in North York, and a 74-year-old woman who died after being struck by a Canada Post delivery truck on Eglinton Avenue.
And on the dark and rainy evening of Jan. 11, more than 10 pedestrians were struck by drivers over a two-hour period, though all escaped with their lives.
In all, the last several years have been especially dangerous for pedestrians. A total of 36 were killed by drivers in all of 2017, while 43 were killed in 2016, the deadliest year for pedestrians in Toronto since 2002.
Baptist said that seniors are over-represented in terms of total deaths compared with other demographics, while left-turns by drivers at intersections and mid-block crossings by pedestrians seem to be particular safety issues.
Of the five pedestrian deaths this year, for example, three involved mid-block crossings.
"Mid-block crossing is risky, and as we've seen from collision statistics, it is deadly," said Const. Clint Stibbe.
The week-long campaign will include stepped-up enforcement and education sessions hosted by police for community groups. Police are also using Twitter to raise awareness.
Thinking of crossing the street mid-block? IT IS RISKY. Be a visible and #predictable road user. Crosswalks and signalized intersections help reduce the chances of you being involved in a collision. Pls RT #RoadSafetyStartsWithYou pic.twitter.com/PMe5w5qi4m— @TrafficServices
'Things that we can all do'
Responses from residents on social media, however, varied. Some who responded to tweets by police expressed frustration with their perception that the campaign unfairly places blame on pedestrians while absolving drivers of responsibility.
Pedestrians have the right of way in the majority of pedestrian fatalities and injuries in Toronto.— @liamrtbrown
Instead, please focus on the main cause of collisions - distracted and aggressive drivers - and enforce the laws against speeding, distracted driving, and running stop signs. pic.twitter.com/cNnNtBjYOG
Police answered by saying that the city's Vision Zero safety plan — an effort to substantially reduce traffic-related deaths on Toronto's streets — includes components focused on all road users. Pedestrian safety is being spotlighted currently, but everyone who travels on the city's roadways needs to take responsibility for safety, tweets said.
"It's so important that all road users share the road safely together," said Baptist.
"And there's things that we can all do: slow down, pay more attention, put the device down, get the ear buds out and look both ways before crossing a road."