Pedestrians, drivers need to unplug and focus on the road, crossing guard says

Toronto has seen 34 pedestrians killed in collisions so far this year, an uptick of more 60 per cent compared to 2014.

34 pedestrians killed in Toronto this year

Toronto has seen 34 pedestrians killed in collisions so far this year, an uptick of more 60 per cent compared to 2014.

The increasing number of fatalities has sparked public safety campaigns across the country, aimed at both drivers and those walking on the streets.  Last week, three people in their 20s were struck and killed in the Greater Toronto Area.

Toronto crossing guard Al Mainguy cited both speeding cars and "plugged in" drivers and pedestrians as some of the factors behind the grim statistics.

"I find a lot of people don't pay attention, especially pedestrians," he said. "I'm 20 feet away… but a lot of people go down to the far corner to run towards the streetcar."

Lower speed limits

Mainguy's been pushing Toronto city council to lower the speed limit at Gerrard and Leslie streets, where he's worked for the last 10 years. He told CBC's Metro Morning that he would like to see the speed limit moved down from 50 km/h to between 30 and 35 km/h.

Traffic congestion also plays a role in distracted driving, leading to collisions, an instructor with Young Drivers of Canada said.

"Most people take five [to] seven years of experience to get to a point where they're unconsciously competent," Angelo DiCicco said. "A new driver is consciously competent, [which means] they have to think about every single maneuver."

Ditch the headphones

And drivers only have so much cognitive focus, he said.

Drivers should be constantly flicking their eyes left, right and in the rearview mirror, but also be attuned to sudden movement around them, whether it's a car slowly down or a pedestrian stepping in to the road, DiCicco said.

"That eats up a lot of attention, especially if you're thinking about getting to work or having another sip of coffee."

But Mainguy said that pedestrians have a responsibility to be focused on their surroundings, too.

"That's why I won't let anyone cross until they're unplugged."

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