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traffic safety

Reconstruction officers from Toronto Police traffic services investigate the scene of a fatal accident involving a pedestrian in 2010John Hanley/The Globe and Mail

As Toronto suffers through a wave of pedestrian deaths that threatens to make this the worst year in more than a decade, a new road safety group has formed to put pressure on politicians and offer support to victims' families.

"Enough is enough, we have to end fatalities and serious injuries on our roads," said David Stark, whose wife was killed when a vehicle mounted the east-end sidewalk where she was standing.

The group – Friends & Families for Safe Streets – officially launched Tuesday at City Hall. It is spearheaded by people such as Mr. Stark, all of whom have lost a family member or close friend in a road collision.

With two of Toronto's 44 councillors in attendance, they held photos of these victims and signs decrying the impact of "road violence" – a term that echoes protests from the early decades of motoring, when fatal collisions sparked outrage against "death drivers."

"The gravity of the harm calls for actions," said Yu Li, whose close friend was killed while cycling. "And the term of road violence will have that effect of bringing this to the conscience of everybody, that these are not accidents. These are preventable and these are tragedies with grave consequences."

The group's launch comes as fatalities mount in the city. The 38 pedestrian deaths so far in 2016 are only two short of the total for 2013, which was itself the worst year in more than a decade, with two months left to go. Eight pedestrians have been killed in the past month, sparking warnings from police and paramedics about people not taking proper care in the autumn as they walk in the increasingly poorly lit conditions.

"The fact is, you can be wearing bright orange, you can be covered in lights from head to toe, you can be on a sidewalk and you're still not safe, you're still vulnerable," argued Kasia Briegmann-Samson, whose husband was killed by a hit-and-run driver while cycling.

"If you consider the victim-blaming and excuses unacceptable, this [group] is a call to action."

The group is calling for the city to go beyond the road safety plan announced this summer. That plan was slammed for its timidity when unveiled and was later beefed up. But critics say it continues to focus too much on small fixes and not enough on cultural change. A drop to the default speed limit – a key tactic in some cities – was not among the measures included.

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