It has been another bad year for pedestrian fatalities in Toronto and Ontario as a whole.
As a result, there are yet more studies under way to “identify common factors that have played a role in pedestrian deaths and, where appropriate, make recommendations to prevent similar deaths in the future.” That’s the description of what the Ontario chief coroner is beginning, along with a similar review into cycling fatalities announced by the province.
There are more than 100 pedestrians a year killed in Ontario by cars, trucks, buses and street cars. Toronto did a study in 2007 and, as a result, new stoplights have replaced former pedestrian crosswalks and countdown clocks have been added to pedestrian signals. The City also sponsored a “Please Drive Carefully – We're All Pedestrians” ad campaign.
Maybe we should all take a look at a campaign under way in Florida. That state recognizes it has a serious problem and is attacking it with an aggressive public education campaign.
More than 450 pedestrians a year are killed in Florida, which leads the United States in pedestrian death rates. There are nine fatalities a week on average in Florida with another 21 seriously injured. Bicycle fatalities also occur in Florida at twice the U.S. average.
The Florida Department of Transportation, along with a group of safety agencies, has launched seetheblindspots.com. In graphic detail, it states the frightening facts and blames this carnage on Floridians having a false sense of security from driving so much without consequence. It shows that Orlando and Tampa-St. Petersburg are the two most dangerous cities in the United States for walking and then it hit you with a video that scared the daylights out of you.
The video started with a warning, saying it may be unsuitable for children. The brief presentation without narration contained real-life videos of people being hit by cars. I watched it. One pedestrian was hit head-on by a speeding car and went flying across an intersection. A cyclist is invisible until the moment the car slammed into him. A pedestrian stepped without looking from in front of a parked car right into the path of a speeding vehicle. It was graphic, it was brutal and it was enough to keep pedestrians awake at night.
It was too graphic and brutal for a Florida state senator who demanded it be taken down, and it was. But perhaps it will be going up again because a state representative from Boca Raton, Irv Slosberg, argued persuasively, “We need something graphic on the air. We’re going backward instead of forward. A lot of it has to do with driver distraction: cellphones, texting, and driving,” he told the BocaNewsNow. Slosberg’s daughter was killed in a car crash while she was a teen.
I agree with Slosberg. It’s exactly the dire kind of warning we all need to face up to the fact that failing to pay proper attention is a life-and-death matter. Blaming countless avoidable deaths on our false sense of security is exactly right in my books. We’ll see how the debate turns out and whether the video reappears on the web site.
There are traffic cameras in more and more places every day in Toronto. There are undoubtedly terrifying pedestrian accidents captured on them. The new studies being launched must include researching those contents for the lessons learned and then used as public education. We don’t need more multi-hundred-page reports that gather dust.
Maybe Florida’s response is a little too harsh for sensitive Torontonians but Florida is recognizing and facing up to a terrible problem. We have a terrible problem, too.