Toronto

Police chief defends force's road safety record despite increase in collisions

The chief’s comments came a week after police requested $1 million more to fund a team of dedicated traffic officers to cut down on fatal collisions in the city, replacing a team that was disbanded back in 2013.

'The roads aren't just for cars or vehicles, they're for everyone,' chief says

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders has been sharply criticized for not doing more to make the city's roads safe. Now, the chief says his force will ramp up enforcement efforts. (Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press)

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders defended his force's record on traffic enforcement Monday, saying all officers share the responsibility of keeping the roads safe.

The chief's comments came a week after police requested some $1 million more to fund a team of dedicated traffic officers to cut down on fatal collisions in the city, replacing a team that was disbanded back in 2013.

That traffic enforcement team had been active between 2003-2012.

Saunders says police officers have been doing what they can since that time, despite the change in the city's roadways.

"The roads aren't just for cars or vehicles, they're for everyone," he told CBC Radio's Metro Morning.

Saunders noted the collective responsibility of everyone using the streets. You can listen to the full interview in the player below.

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders is in studio with Matt on Metro Morning for the last time. The Chief speaks about his regrets, and the challenges of finding balance between prevention and enforcement in high-profile tasks like traffic safety and gun enforcement. 16:55

"You have to have hyper-sensitivity and alertness and awareness when you're driving a motor vehicle. When you're a pedestrian as well, there needs to be a focus on keeping yourself safe." 

Collision increase, again

Saunders acknowledged collisions in the city have increased again since the team's disbandment. The number of issued tickets also dropped by about 50 percent, from 400,000 to just over 200,000.

That admission, first made ahead of last month's police board meeting, has drawn criticism from local politicians and the public alike.

So far this year, 34 pedestrians have been killed on Toronto's roads, and about 1,100 more have been struck. Many of the victims are over the age of 65. 

Saunders says his force is working with other entities in the city to address the high number of victims in the older demographic. 

"The better way is to work with the city to look at what we could do to make the city more age-friendly," he said in the same interview.

"Us running around and just enforcing may make a difference but I will say the education piece is a huge factor."

All of this comes on the heels of the city's Vision Zero pledge, a plan aimed at eliminating all traffic-related fatalities and injuries on the streets. 

With files from CBC Radio's Metro Morning

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