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Tory's Toronto

Metro's Matt Elliott, formerly of Ford For Toronto, keeps the light shining on Mayor John Tory's city hall.

Speeding, reckless turns and hungry wolves: Stop blaming Toronto pedestrians for dangerous drivers

The majority of crashes are caused by factors within the control of drivers. So, why are we continuously telling pedestrians to smarten up?

Toronto is on track for a record year in pedestrian deaths.

Liz Beddall / Metro Order this photo

Toronto is on track for a record year in pedestrian deaths.

If you listened only to the warnings to pedestrians issued by police officers, paramedics and other city officials over the last few weeks, you’d be forgiven for assuming that wolves are roaming our streets.

Big wolves, and hungry – with a taste for pedestrian blood.

The logic is sound.

Over the last month, as the days have grown darker, we’ve heard a Toronto paramedic spokesperson make a public call to pedestrians to wear bright clothing, to not “rush with umbrellas,” and – incredibly — to ensure that boots are broken-in before venturing outside.

We’ve also heard a Peel police officer advise that children only travel city streets in groups, for fear that it’s dangerous to go alone. And just last week we heard Toronto Coun. Jaye Robinson name “distracted walking” as a serious safety concern.

But, of course, none of this safety advice to pedestrians is about wolves.

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Instead, this is all about cars.

More specifically, it’s about the tendency for cars to injure and kill pedestrians on city streets.

I’m not a biologist, but I can tell you that cars are different than wolves in several ways. Most importantly, where wolves are driven by hunger, desire and the cruel light of the full moon, cars are driven by human beings. And those human beings are totally capable of moderating their speed to match road conditions or taking extra care to not mow down people who are simply trying to cross intersections.

They’re capable of making decisions to keep pedestrians safe.

If wolves were indeed ravaging Toronto’s streets, these constant calls for pedestrian vigilance might make sense. But when the danger is entirely because of cars, the logical thing to do is put the largest share of the responsibility on those behind the wheel.

Algie Parucha was killed when the driver of an SUV jumped a curb and struck her sidewalk stall near Rogers Centre last summer.

Liz Beddall/Metro

Algie Parucha was killed when the driver of an SUV jumped a curb and struck her sidewalk stall near Rogers Centre last summer.

But that doesn’t happen often enough. Sure, the grab bags of tips and tricks offered to pedestrians always comes with a cursory reminder to drivers to be safe and attentive, but the scale never seems correctly weighted.

Statistics on the subject of pedestrian safety points to drivers bearing a vastly greater responsibility for preventing collisions. A Toronto Public Health study released in 2015 found that pedestrians had the clear right of way in 67 per cent of collisions reported between 2008 and 2012 that resulted in an injury or death. 

The report also found that “pedestrian inattentiveness” was a factor in just 13 per cent of these incidents.

In the vast majority of cases where a pedestrian is hit, the major factors are things totally within the control of the driver. Things like speed, reckless turns and driver distraction.

With our streets besieged by dangerous driving — not dangerous wolves — we should be hearing far more about that.

Put the blame where it belongs.

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