Thu. May 26th, 2022

Since 2016, when Toronto launched the Vision Zero Road Safety Plan, which aims to reduce traffic-related deaths to zero, 356 lives have been lost on the streets of Toronto, most of them pedestrians.Fred Lum / The Globe and Mail

Naomi Buck is a Toronto-based author.

Last month, 17-year-old Nadia Mozumder crossed the street outside her Scarborough school during her lunch break when she was hit and killed by a driver in a minivan turning left.

Seven years ago, at another Scarborough intersection, 42-year-old Erica Stark was standing on the sidewalk with her dog waiting for the light to turn green when a minivan jumped over the curb, hitting and killing her.

Two women were killed on two separate clear autumn days by two different drivers of a Dodge Caravan in the same neighborhood of the same city – a city that has promised to eliminate fatalities for pedestrians completely.

That goal remains elusive. Since 2016, when Toronto launched the Vision Zero Road Safety Plan, which aims to reduce traffic-related deaths to zero, 356 lives have been lost on the streets of Toronto, most of them pedestrians.

“I need justice for my daughter,” Nadia’s grieving father, Azizul Mozumder, said as he attended her funeral prayer last Thursday, adding that no parent should lose their child in this way.

But what does justice look like in a case like this, and who can deliver it?

In response to the news of Toronto’s 19th pedestrian death this year, Mayor John Tory said: “The primary responsibility remains and lies with the people who have their two hands on the steering wheel and their foot on the accelerator pedal.”

In terms of physics, he’s right: Drivers have much less to lose than unprotected human bodies. But in the bigger picture, the responsibility for the destruction that is taking place in the streets of Toronto lies with many, from the planners who design these streets, to the regulators who decide which vehicles are allowed to drive on them, to the legislative bodies that control their use.

The zero-vision strategy, which emerged in Sweden, places the responsibility on urban planners and traffic engineers. It encourages cities to design roads in such a way that when motorists make mistakes, these will not cost cyclists or pedestrians their lives. Toronto’s rollout of the program has involved a number of measures, including reduced speed limits, speed and red light cameras, safety zones around schools and nursing homes, speed bumps and designated bike paths.

That’s a good start. But that is not enough. And it may never be. Consider a city like Oslo, which managed to achieve zero deaths for pedestrians and cyclists in 2019. To do so, it removed all street parking in the city center, transformed entire parts of the city into car-free zones and introduced tolls for all vehicles into the city. Toronto City Council is not there yet.

Instead of holding our breath until that is the case, we should take the punishments seriously. Motorists who kill pedestrians are typically charged with careless driving under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act. Found guilty of this, the driver who killed Erica Stark received a $ 1,000 fine and a one-month driving ban. Against growing criticism of the leniency of such convictions, the Ontario government added a new offense – reckless driving that caused death or bodily harm – in 2018, which raises the maximum fine from $ 2,000 to $ 50,000. But none of the charges result in a mandatory revocation of the driver’s license or driver training.

Imagine if this applied to other licensed activities – if dentists who accidentally killed their patients or registered massage therapists who broke their clients’ backs or crane drivers who dropped steel beams on passers-by were fined and then allowed to resume practice.

As a car-centric society, we consider driving a right, just as we feel entitled to use our phones at the wheel and hide behind tinted windows to avoid getting caught. Although distracted driving has surpassed disabled driving as a cause of death, police still do not have the right to request a cell phone at an accident site, nor can courts enforce phone records – unless the driver was seen on their device leading to the accident site. collision.

Driving a car is a privilege. Canadians’ marked preference for pick-up trucks and SUVs – extraordinary in the context of urbanization and climate change – means that this privilege comes with a great deal of responsibility.

“I hope that whoever sees this every time you see a pedestrian, whether they are young, old or young, slow down, look left, right and in the middle – and then continue,” Moqsood Hussaine, a friend of Mozumder. family, told CBC News. “Because you’re not just hurting one person.”

Pedestrian killings are tragedies. Lives are lost and other lives – including those of the drivers – are destroyed. True justice in these cases can never be served. Together, we should do everything we can to prevent them from happening in the first place.

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