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A cyclist makes their way past a new road safety campaign near the southwest corner of King Street West and Spadina Street West in Toronto on Oct. 30, 2018.

Tijana Martin/The Globe and Mail

Toronto has teamed up with the families of people killed in traffic collisions to create a powerful new safety awareness campaign.

Called the “Art of Distraction,” the campaign is illustrated with objects that speak to the violent impacts that killed recent victims: a broken helmet, a mangled bicycle, the personal effects returned to a widow the day her husband was fatally struck.

The ads are targeted especially at drivers – with the message “pay attention on our streets before someone else pays the price” – and are part of the city’s Vision Zero road safety plan, which hopes ultimately to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries altogether.

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The initial Vision Zero plan was rolled out in the summer of 2016, a year that proved to be the deadliest for pedestrians in more than a decade. Although the numbers improved in 2017, a Globe and Mail tally shows that fatalities this year are happening at a rate closer to the 2016 pace. The five cyclists killed so far in 2018 is already more than some recent years entire toll.

“The artifacts featured in the Art of Distraction campaign are a testimony to our stories,” said Kasia Briegmann-Samson, a member of the advocacy group Friends and Families for Safe Streets, which co-operated with the ad campaign.

Her husband, Tom Samson, was hit and killed on his bicycle in 2012 and one ad in this campaign will feature the keys, wallet and wedding ring police returned to her later that day.

“The hope is that this public awareness campaign will have a powerful impact, resulting in better driving behaviour and fewer Torontonians living out stories of hurt and loss,” Ms. Briegmann-Samson said.

The ad campaign will involve transit shelter displays, radio and television spots and social media. It will be in place until mid-December, covering a time of year when weather and the time change contribute to make the roads especially deadly.

“Fatalities and injuries on our roads are preventable, and it takes all of us, especially drivers, to make our streets safer,” Transportation Services general manager Barbara Gray said.

“It’s not a straightforward issue, it’s not an easy thing … to change behaviour through campaigns, but it’s absolutely possible.”

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