We cannot let increase in traffic fatalities continue

Vision Zero is a road safety strategy that aims to eliminate all pedestrian and driver fatalities. Originating in Scandinavia, the strategy accepts that humans will make mistakes and that streets must be accordingly designed to reduce the impacts of those mistakes.

Real action to protect Torontonians can’t come soon enough. Toronto has seen an alarming rise in traffic fatalities in recent years. There were 43 fatalities in 2016 (the highest since 2005), 42 in 2017, and as of March, Toronto is on pace for its worst year ever with 66 deaths. This cannot be allowed to continue.

Since city council adopted a Vision Zero policy in 2014, some steps have been taken by the City. In response to the recent rise in pedestrian deaths, the schedule for implementing safer road designs in school zones has been increased from 20 schools per year to 80.

Even at the improved rate it will still take until at least 2030 to protect all sites and children obviously walk outside the immediate area of a school. As well, tragically, the preponderance of victims on our streets are seniors.

Mayor John Tory must do more to address safety on our roads.

Experience from around the world demonstrates that Vision Zero initiatives work. Road fatalities have been reduced by 50 per cent in Sweden despite traffic volumes increasing over the same period, since it adopted the Vision Zero policy goal. New York has aggressively pursued traffic safety over the past few years with installed speed limit signs, zebra markings, pedestrian signals, sidewalks, flashing beacons, senior safety zones, traffic control signals, speed humps and other measures. Last year marked the fourth consecutive year of declining pedestrian fatalities under Vision Zero in New York.

Most streets in Toronto were planned with only drivers in mind. Many fatalities can be avoided if pedestrians, transit users, and cyclists are more than an afterthought. Road engineering that protects these users and compels motorists to reduce their speed is needed to save lives.

As our councillor, and as a parent of a 5-year-old daughter, neighbourhood safety will continue to be my highest priority.