Local traffic safety blitz underway

Traffic along Kingston Road from Victoria Park to Woodbine will be monitored closely beginning January 14, 2016. PHOTO: Lara O'Keefe

After the deadliest year in almost a decade, the City of Toronto says it is taking action on road safety.

According to the city, there were 77 fatalities in 2016 and between 2013 to 2016, the average number of traffic fatalities has been sitting at 64 people per year, representing a 10 year high.

“The number of pedestrians and cyclists injured and killed by vehicles in our city last year is both alarming and unacceptable. We must do more to prevent these deaths and protect our residents across the city,” said Toronto mayor John Tory in a news conference earlier this month. “I am committed to making sure all those who use our roads – pedestrians, cyclists and drivers – can get where they need to go as efficiently and safely as possible.”

Echoing these concerns, Toronto Police 55 Division will be running a traffic safety project starting on Jan. 14, 2017 and continuing through to Dec. 31, 2017.

The project began as a response to the “numerous complaints via social media and email about dangerous road conditions for pedestrians,” said Jon Morrice, crime prevention officer with the Toronto Police 55 Division. He said most of the complaints took place during the rush hour and at pedestrian crossovers.

“Kingston Road from Victoria Park [to Woodbine] in particular received many complaints as a result of the lane reduction and closures resulting from the condo development,” said Morrice.

He explained that the area covered by 55 Division is unique to Toronto because a number of drivers use streets in the area – Kingston Road being one such example – to get from the suburbs to the downtown core.

Listed among the focus areas in which they will be increasing safety are pedestrian crossovers, busy intersections, streets used as thoroughfares to the downtown core, and schools, community centres, and senior buildings.

The blitz will also focus on catching offenders who speed, fail to stop at red lights, disobey signs and are distracted while driving.

The local plan aligns with a larger initiative through the city of Toronto and other agencies aimed at increasing awareness around road safety and reducing the number of fatalities. In Toronto, 45 per cent of people killed or seriously injured on the streets are pedestrians, many of whom are over the age of 55.

The city has put forward 45 new measures that include the creation of senior safety zones, the addition of red light cameras at 76 new locations, additional accessible pedestrian signal installations – the device used to alert people who are blind or have limited vision when it is safe to walk, road safety audits, speed reductions, protected bike lanes, and increased pedestrian walk times.

This initiative is all a part of a global push towards Vision Zero, a concept that first began in Sweden in 1997 and aims to reduce traffic-related collisions that result in death or serious injury by building a traffic management plan that assumes we are human and will make errors.

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