Fall and Winter are the Most Dangerous Times of the Year for Pedestrians

The most dangerous time of year for Ontario pedestrians starts with the shift from daylight saving time to standard time and ends in the spring. This year, that shift occurred on November 1, meaning we are now comfortably in a period that demands heightened awareness from vulnerable road users. This is also a busy time of year for personal injury lawyers. Pedestrian-motorist collisions tend to result in serious, sometimes lifechanging injuries; experienced legal representation can ensure that injury victims have access to the compensation they need to fund their recoveries.

Why Do Pedestrian-Motorist Collisions Increase During the Fall and Winter?

There are a number of reasons why pedestrian-motorists collisions increase during the period beginning in November and ending in late March. The first is visibility. As Ontarians, we’re all familiar with long, dark winter nights. When the clocks ‘turn back’ to standard time, our mornings become brighter while our commutes home occur in night-like darkness. In large cities like Toronto and Ottawa, that means peak pedestrian and vehicle traffic coinciding with minimal visibility.

Even with less-than-normal vehicle traffic as a result of COVID-19, the threat to pedestrians is high. In fact, physical distancing measures to reduce the virus’s spread may increase vulnerability – experts are concerned about pedestrians stepping onto the street or lingering in crosswalks to avoid their neighbours.

Drivers are also exhibiting riskier behaviour during the pandemic. Although the number of cars on Ontario’s roads has declined since March, motorists are driving faster and more aggressively than ever.

The other key contributor to November-to-March collisions is the weather. The bulk of Ontario’s annual snowfall occurs during these five months. When it’s not snowing, Ontarians can expect a healthy mix of alternative inclement conditions: glaring sun, blowing snow, freezing rain, icy roads, black ice, and more. Combined with limited visibility, these challenging road conditions can make it difficult for motorists to see and avoid pedestrians.

What Is Being Done to Reduce Pedestrian Injuries This Fall and Winter?

Reducing fall and winter pedestrian injuries is a challenge that municipalities across Ontario have struggled with for years. In Toronto, police rang in November with an aggressive enforcement and public messaging blitz, the “2020 Pedestrian Safety Campaign.” In a November 9 release, the force announced that it had issued 2,422 speeding tickets, 982 aggressive driving tickets, 98 tickets for using a handheld device while driving, 8 stunt driving infractions, and hundreds of additional tickets over the previous seven days. It also made 13 impaired driving arrests.

“We all have a role in making our roads safer and changing behaviour through education, engagement and enforcement are key to reducing serious collisions,” said Sgt. Jason Kraft in the release. “Let’s continue the conversation around road safety.”

What More can be Done?

As Sgt. Kraft made clear, everybody – pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, and municipalities – has a role to play in improving road safety during the fall and winter. For pedestrians, that means obeying the rules of the road: cross streets only at crosswalks; make eye-contact with drivers before stepping onto the street; walk on sidewalks wherever possible; etc. It may also be helpful to wear bright, visible clothing.

For cyclists, road safety during the fall and winter means dressing visibly, obeying traffic rules, wearing a helmet, diligently using hand signals, always equipping your bike with safety features (bell, front and rear lights, reflectors), and driving defensively. When possible, it’s a good idea to use streets with bike lanes.

The most important rule for motorists during the fall and winter is to slow down. Low visibility and inclement weather make it more difficult to react to sudden changes on the road ahead. Stick to the speed limit as much as possible; if poor road conditions make it impossible to drive safely at the speed limit, reduce your speed further. And, as always, motorists should refrain from using mobile devices while driving, never drive while under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and always adhere to traffic safety rules and regulations.

While every individual road user can contribute to fall and winter road safety, municipalities may have the most power to reduce collisions and injuries. Toronto’s Vision Zero road safety plan aims to eliminate traffic fatalities by implementing an array of progressive road safety measures, including reduced speed limits, traffic calming infrastructure, added bike lanes, added crosswalks, and more. If every recommended Vision Zero measure was taken, it’s safe to assume that traffic fatalities would fall drastically; unfortunately, the city has hesitated to fully implement the plan. As such, most of the onus for staying safe this season will once again fall to individual motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians.

Contact Will Davidson LLP

If you are injured in a traffic accident this fall or winter, contact Will Davidson LLP to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our experienced team of personal injury lawyers will review your claim and provide legal representation as you seek compensation.

Image: Shutterstock

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