Vision Zero is on the fast track in Toronto, but could it work for Hamilton too?
Five pedestrians in a week were killed in Toronto. In a week. Forty-three pedestrians were killed on Toronto streets in 2016. That seems extraordinary in raw numbers but if you spend any time watching traffic in Toronto, or in Hamilton for that matter, it’s not that surprising. Shocking? Yes. Surprising? Unfortunately, no.
The Vision Zero Road Safety Plan, a plan to make streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists in Toronto, is in an attempt to reduce the number of fatalities occurring and I can’t but wonder if it could work in a city like Hamilton too.
Essentially, the five year initiative is looking to create some of the following:
- Senior safety zones
- Red light cameras
- Road safety audits for high collision risk locations
- Lowering speed limits in some places
- Increasing pedestrian walk times at some signal lights (with countdowns)
Will these initiatives really make a difference? That’s not up to me, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “…issues with pedestrian and cyclist safety may be semi-fixable with better urban planning, in the end, it comes down to each individual taking responsibility for their own safety, health and healing.”
Ways to take your safety as a pedestrian into your own hands
Waiting for city planners in Toronto or Hamilton to put into place initiatives like Vision Zero isn’t really an option. Instead, each and every one of us needs to work towards safer streets for everyone.
As pedestrians, here are some ways to make walking safer:
- Walk the extra feet to a traffic signal or stop sign instead of jaywalking. Fault is not the issue so much as the fact that cars aren’t expecting you to cross where you’re not supposed to
- Just because you have a green light or ‘walk’ sign doesn’t mean you should cross at an intersection without looking for traffic. Distracted drivers or those looking left before making a right turn might not see you. Make eye contact with the driver before setting out to cross. This is doubly important around trucks
- Watch for laneways and driveways: Drivers might be more aware of vehicular than pedestrian traffic as they attempt to pull out, or in, and there’s often reduced visibility. If you’ve ever walked by the entrance to an underground parking lot and almost been mowed down, you’ll know what I mean
- Skip the earphones and be aware of your surroundings. We’ve all seen those images online of people walking straight into posts or fountains because they were looking at their phones. What’s not so funny is walking into a moving two ton vehicle. This is a big one for joggers
- If you’re walking in a place that has no sidewalks, be sure to walk facing oncoming traffic. You’ll see a car veering towards you versus having it sneak up behind you
What if you are hit by a car, as a pedestrian?
These situations are handled like any other motor vehicle accident. Whether or not you have car insurance, you are covered for your injuries, either by your own insurer, the other vehicle’s insurance or by the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund, which kicks in if you’re involved in a hit and run or the driver is uninsured.
Accident benefits can include:
- Income replacement benefits, up to $400 week (up to 70% of your gross salary), or a non-earner benefit if you were unemployed at the time of the accident
- Rehabilitation and medical expenses
- Attendant care benefits
The steps you need to take if you are involved in an accident as a pedestrian:
- File a police report at the scene and communicate EVERYTHING you’re feeling to the first medical responder (even if you think it’s unimportant)
- See your doctor (again, report everything you’re feeling; don’t self-edit)
- Notify your insurance company or that of the driver who hit you
- Call a personal injury lawyer
These are the same steps I always recommend for drivers involved in an accident, but they apply just the same for pedestrians.
The key is to document everything that happened and collect all the information that you can. The more you can present to a lawyer, the easier their job will be.
If your injuries are severe and meet a certain threshold, your compensation options become greater and in these cases in particular, the advice of a lawyer can make all the difference.
Regardless of the safety mechanisms the city decides to put in place to reduce pedestrian accidents, the bottom line is that you are best placed to ensure your own safety and that of those around you by taking precautions and remaining alert, whether behind the wheel or on foot.
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