Pedestrian Traffic Deaths, Injuries Continue to Be a Problem

pedestrian about to get hit by a car at a crosswalk on slippery wet pavement

It has been a deadly year for pedestrians in Ottawa.

According to the Ottawa Police Service (OPS), 10 people died in pedestrian-involved collisions in this city in 2023. Four of those fatalities have occurred since the beginning of October.

On one day that month, three people were hit by vehicles in two separate incidents, leaving one dead and prompting a warning from the Ottawa Safety Council for drivers to be cautious around pedestrians.

“I want to emphasize the importance of drivers being not impaired, paying attention and not being distracted on the phone in any way,” Jamie Kwong, executive director of the council, told the Ottawa Citizen. “In the end, research says 90 per cent of motor vehicle accidents can be prevented.

As drivers, we’re behind a two- or three-ton vehicle. We have to take driving as a very serious responsibility.”

CTV News reports there have been 26 fatal accidents involving cyclists and pedestrians in Ottawa between 2017 and 2020. On average, more than 300 pedestrian fatalities occurred nationally every year from 2018 to 2020, Statistics Canada states in data published recently.

The City of Ottawa introduced a four-year road safety strategy in an effort to reduce deaths and serious injuries by 20 per cent by next year.

The plan called for new and rebuilt roads in residential areas specifically designed for speed limits of 30 km/h. It also recommended a ban on right turns at some red lights and enhanced "high visibility" crosswalk markings.

Noting that studies indicate speed plays a significant role in fatal and serious-injury accidents, traffic calming measures were also introduced.

“The Safer Roads Ottawa Program is a leading community partnership between Ottawa Fire Services, Ottawa Paramedic Service, Ottawa Police Service, Ottawa Public Health and the Public Works Department committed to preventing or eliminating road deaths and serious injuries for all people in the City of Ottawa, through culture change, community engagement, and development of a sustainable safe transportation environment,” according the City of Ottawa’s website.

Statistics Canada Findings.

StatsCan found that the rate of pedestrian fatalities is highest among men and seniors aged 70 years. They suggest the higher rate for seniors may be linked to “a decline in muscle strength, balance, reaction time, vision and hearing” that can make it more difficult to see oncoming traffic, get around quicker and judge distances correctly.

Approximately 21 per cent of pedestrian fatalities occurred at intersections or in a roundabout. While pedestrians did not always follow proper traffic signals, fatalities still occurred when the signals were obeyed, it was reported.

Weather, road conditions and poor visibility were cited in more than one in five pedestrian fatalities from 2018 to 2020, StatsCan found. Inclement weather such as heavy rain or snow, fog or hail as well blinding sun were reported at the time of those accidents.

Wet, icy, or snow-covered streets were also reported. These unfavourable weather and road conditions may have contributed to the pedestrian's and the driver's ability to manoeuvre safely, according to the report.

Infrastructure issues, such as damaged sidewalks, the absence of sidewalks, or faulty or limited lighting by streetlights, were reported in eight per cent of pedestrian fatalities.

Statistics Canada found walking on roads while impaired played a factor in 20 per cent of pedestrian deaths with either the driver or the victim having had consumed alcohol, cannabis, or other drugs at the time of the accident. Alcohol was reported in 76 per cent of pedestrian fatalities between 2018 and 2020.

The Dangers of Distraction.

Distracted driving continues to be a problem. In fact, it was reported earlier this year that the number of deaths related to distracted driving in Ontario has increased 36 per cent since 2021. But what about distracted walking, such as texting, talking on cell phones, or using headphones to listen to music? According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, distraction may have been a contributing factor in the 4,200 U.S. pedestrian deaths and 70,000 injuries in traffic crashes in 2010.

The organization cited a study that observed nearly one-third of pedestrians at 20 high-risk intersections in Seattle listening to music, texting or using a cellphone. Those who texted were four times more likely to display at least one "unsafe crossing behavior," such as ignoring traffic signals or failing to look both ways.

In 2017, a private member's bill was introduced in the Ontario legislature with an aim to curb distracted walking in the province. The bill called for a $50 fine on the first offence, $75 on a second offence and $125 for third and subsequent violations under the Highway Traffic Act. The bill effectively died when its author failed to win re-election. 

Less Daylight Often Blamed for Accidents.

At the beginning of November, Ontario, like most of the country, returned to Standard Time. This, of course, means the sun rises and falls an hour earlier. Police warn reduced visibility during the evening commute hours from November to March means “people and objects on the road are harder to see.”

In Toronto, police say they historically see a 100 per cent increase in pedestrian-related collisions between 5 and 8 p.m. and a 400 per cent spike between 7 and 8 a.m. in the months following the time change.

As the time change approached, drivers were asked to slow down, stay alert and obey speed limits. They were also advised pedestrians to approach all crosswalks, intersections and transit stops with caution.

Adapt Your Behaviour.

Staying safe requires vigilance all year round but it is especially important at this time of the year when winter can make walking a challenge.

“Adapting our behaviour on our roads and pathways is just another part of changing seasons,” the Ottawa Fire Service (OFS) stated during its annual Be Safe Be Seen campaign in October.

The OFS distributed reflective bands and flashing lights and advised pedestrians to ensure they can be seen at night.

Police urge drivers and pedestrians to follow the traffic rules and take precautions in inclement weather.

If you are crossing the street, take steps to avoid accidents such as making eye contact with drivers. Avoid jaywalking and don’t wear clothing such as hoodies that can obstruct your vision. Put away your cellphone and headphone or anything that may distract you from your surroundings.

Contact Us if You've Sustained Injuries in a Traffic Accident.

No matter how safe you are, accidents happen. If you have been injured by a motorist while walking in Ottawa your immediate concern should be your health. If the accident is an emergency, call 911. If not, call the OPS.

If you are able, record details of the accident including time, date, location, along with weather and road conditions or ask someone to do it for you. Take photos or video of the scene. Get information such as the driver's licence number, address and phone number. Look for witnesses and get their names and phone numbers and an account of what they saw.

Even if your injury does not appear to be serious, you should seek medical treatment. Some injuries may not be readily apparent and the effects may not manifest for weeks or months.

If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident call the experienced personal injury team at Gluckstein Lawyers before agreeing to any insurance settlement. We provide a free consultation without obligation on your part and we do not charge legal fees until your claim is settled. You may not decide to file a claim, but our lawyers can advise you on the steps to take in case you change your mind.


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