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One Toronto crossing guard's quest to make his intersection safer

Crossing guard Domenic Pillegi is asking Mayor John Tory to solve the problem of aggressive driving at Avenue and Wilson.

Crossing guard Domenic Pillegi explains some of the safety concerns at Avenue Road and Wilson to Mayor John Tory Wednesday morning.

Eduardo Lima/Metro

Crossing guard Domenic Pillegi explains some of the safety concerns at Avenue Road and Wilson to Mayor John Tory Wednesday morning.

Domenic Pillegi just wants a little respect.

Standing at the corner of Avenue Road and Wilson on Wednesday morning in the freezing cold, the crossing guard says he’s just there “to take care of pedestrians, take care of the kids.”

His reward? Every day, Pillegi says drivers swear at him, flip him the bird – or worse.

“They’ll try to drive right through me, or cut me off while I’m crossing the kids,” he says.

Pillegi’s so fed up with the way he’s treated he called the mayor. And, to his surprise, John Tory answered.

The mayor visited Pillegi’s intersection Wednesday morning and spent half an hour speaking with local parents as they walked their kids to Armour Heights Public School.

Pillegi says impatient drivers, especially those turning left or right en route to the 401, are making the intersection unsafe. Those using the crosswalk Wednesday agreed.

Carla Caetano, with her eight-year-old daughter Cayla in tow, told Tory that drivers routinely disobey the crossing guard.

“It’s very dangerous,” she said. “They’ll cut right in front of you while you’re in the crosswalk.”

Daryl Papoushek said it’s “open season” on pedestrians in the intersection and related stories of scooping kids out of the way of aggressive drivers.

Pillegi believes an advance green for turning cars on Wilson could help ease the tension, giving drivers a few seconds to turn before pedestrians begin crossing.

While there, the mayor recorded a public service announcement urging people to "pay attention" and respect crossing guards.  He also mused about stricter penalties for drivers who disobey guards or a possible ban on right turns on red at the intersection but didn’t promise specific solutions.

Local Coun. Christin Carmichael Greb says it’s a chicken and egg problem. Traffic congestion is worse at the intersection because so many parents drive their kids to school. Why? They don’t feel safe letting their children walk, she said.

“It’s driver behaviour that needs to change. People drive too aggressively for our local streets,” she said.

Whatever the fix, Pillegi said it can’t come fast enough.

“We’ve got to do something,” he said. “I don’t want to see someone killed because someone else was in a rush to get to work or get home.”

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