Toronto

When is it legal to jaywalk? Toronto police weigh in after 2 pedestrian deaths

In the wake of a collision that killed a mother and daughter in Scarborough last week, Toronto police recommend that pedestrians assess the risk they face when they want to cross a street at mid-block.

Const. Clint Stibbe says look twice, assess risks when crossing the street at mid-block

Const. Clint Stibbe says: 'If you are going to cross mid-block, take that second look. Make sure you recognize how fast that car is coming in or how slow it is, whatever the case may be. If you are going to step across that roadway, ensure that you do it safely.' (Muriel Draaisma/CBC)

In the wake of a collision that killed a mother and daughter in Scarborough last week, Toronto police recommend that pedestrians assess the risk they face when they want to cross a street at mid-block.

"We used to say, don't do it at all. But if you are going to do it, you have to make sure you can make it," Toronto Police Const. Clint Stibbe, of Traffic Services, told Metro Morning on Monday.

Out of 25 pedestrian deaths in Toronto so far this year, 13 of them occurred when pedestrians were crossing at mid-block according to Stibbe.

Last Wednesday, at 9:25 p.m., a woman, 33, and her daughter, 5, tried to cross Warden Avenue from west to east, north of Continental Place, which is near Ellesmere Road. The family had attended a nearby restaurant.

The pair were following the woman's husband and another child across the street. The father and child made it safely, but the mother and daughter were hit by a northbound silver Audi A4. Both were flung into the southbound lanes. 
Windshield glass shattered when a mother and daughter were struck by a northbound vehicle on Warden Avenue in Scarborough. Both were flung into southbound lanes and the mother was hit again. (Paul Smith/CBC)

The woman was then struck again by a southbound, dark-coloured, four-door 2006-2011 Honda Civic. She and her child were rushed to hospital, where they were pronounced dead.

The first driver remained at the scene, while the second driver did not. Police are looking for that driver and said the car was damaged. The vehicle's inner fender well-liner, from the front passenger side wheel area, was left at the scene. 

Police have not yet determined who was most responsible for the deaths. 

Mistakes can be made by all parties 

Stibbe said determining who is most responsible for traffic deaths can be complex when pedestrians have crossed at mid-block. He said often there can be a series of mistakes made by all parties involved before a fatal collision between a vehicle and a pedestrian occurs.

"The reality is, everybody is making a mistake on the roads at some point during the day. When we look at the total number of individuals in the city, the total number of vehicles, and the total number of incidents that occur, a very small percentage of that total is unfortunately what we see as loss of life," he said.

"Everybody has to make a decision as to the level of risk they are willing to accept." 
Security footage of collision near the corner of Warden Avenue and Continental Place where a woman and her daughter were struck by a vehicle in Scarborough. (Submitted)

Stibbe said Toronto police are changing the language around traffic deaths and injuries and are looking at what contributed to a collision and who is most responsible, as opposed to who is at fault.

"Our job is not actually looking at whose fault it was, but who was most responsible for the collision. In most cases, errors don't just occur on one side. In fact, there are errors on several sides," he said.

Police have to look at such factors as time, date, location, speed of a vehicle involved, driver action before a collision and decisions made by a pedestrian.

"We have to look it as an open book."

Jaywalking illegal when it interferes with traffic

According to Toronto bylaws, it is legal to jaywalk, unless a pedestrian interferes with traffic, he said. "You have to do it in such a fashion that you do not interfere with vehicular traffic that's on the roadway," he said. 

"For clarification, you are permitted to cross mid-block. There is no law that would prevent that. That being said, the vehicle operator still has to do whatever is necessary to avoid a collision where at all possible."

If a pedestrian is at a properly lit intersection with a crossover, Stibbe said a pedestrian has to walk within the crossing lines. If a pedestrian cuts a corner and steps outside of the lines, he or she could be deemed responsible if a collision occurs, he said.

"If you are going to cross mid-block, take that second look. Make sure you recognize how fast that car is coming in or how slow it is, whatever the case may be. If you are going to step across that roadway, ensure that you do it safely. Because the end result is, if you are struck by a motor vehicle, no matter what, you will be on the losing end."

With files from Metro Morning