Brittany Taylor had just purchased a bag of walnuts from a bulk food store when she decided to walk mid-block across Danforth Avenue to visit her sister, on shift at a local restaurant.
She never made it.
The 23-year-old may have figured darting between stopped eastbound cars was the only way to get from the north side of Danforth to the south side without waiting through a cycle of traffic lights at Carlaw Avenue.
Clearing two traffic lanes, Taylor stepped into the left-turning lane, just in time to see a blue van coming at her full-speed. The driver slammed on the brakes, but it was too late. The impact knocked her to the ground.
“I literally thought for 10 seconds that I was going to die,” Taylor says weeks later, sipping coffee at a café just metres from the collision scene. “You actually really do accept it.
“Then, I was like, ‘I’m not going to die — I’m never going to walk again.’ ”
Turns out, Taylor was able to walk away relatively unscathed, although injuries to her back, legs and feet are delaying her returning to shift work at the same Danforth restaurant where her sister works.
Taylor says she’s just lucky to have lived to tell the tale. And that’s what she’ll be doing at the corner of Coxwell Avenue and Danforth on Sept. 27 when Toronto Police launch Smart Walk at 15 intersections across the city.
The initiative is the brainchild of Jack West, a local traffic sergeant who often stages various safety campaigns to bring awareness to traffic and road matters. This latest one-day campaign follows a cycling safety blitz in 54 Division earlier this month.
Smart Walk is not a punitive blitz, so officers won’t be out ticketing. With 17 pedestrian deaths this year, police want to educate those travelling by foot on the dangers at intersections and road crossings.
That will include distracted pedestrians, the new breed of unwitting risk-takers who cross intersections while engrossed in their cell or listening to music from a portable player — a huge no-no, West says. At the time she was struck, Taylor had been listening to music on her iPod.
“Even though it’s not against the law, they have to control the cell phone, don’t let it control your life. Put it down and scan.”
Though Taylor’s music player may not have been the singular cause of her collision, it didn’t help matters, West said. Those listening to music devices should at the very least remove one earbud when crossing at an intersection. Ideally, pedestrians should just turn it off.
When Taylor’s collision report landed on West’s desk, he called to ask if she’d join officers at Smart Walk and share her story of caution.
“Mid-block crossing is one of the major causes of pedestrian deaths,” West says. “Especially with seniors, people over the age of 60.
“They have to realize that if they can see the [traffic] lights, the law says use them.”
Pedestrians should also understand driver behaviour. It’s an unfortunate reality that sometimes they are distracted, too, West says. Taylor, who moved to the Danforth and Greenwood area five months ago from St. Catharines, puts the blame for her collision squarely on herself. So do police, who fined her $50 for failing to use a crossover.
She wasn’t the only one who suffered. The driver of the van was shaken up, and Taylor plans to write him a letter of apology, she says.
It was “a rough couple of days” being back on the street as a pedestrian, Taylor says, but she takes her time now and always makes eye contact with drivers before moving around them. Sometimes she wants to shout at people she observes not paying proper attention while crossing.
“You slow down when something like this happens to you.”
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