What mounting pedestrian and cycling death statistics dont show

You need spend only a few moments looking into the face of a victims family to understand that the stats.

You need spend only a few moments looking into the face of a victims family to understand that the stats about pedestrian and cyclist deaths say nothing about the real suffering involved.

At a press conference on September 10, a coalition that includes United Senior Citizens of Ontario, Kids at Play and several cycling and walking advocacy groups called on the province to follow the example of U.S. jurisdictions and pass vulnerable road user laws that would give harsher penalties to motorists who injure or kill a pedestrian or cyclist.

At the press conference, five families of pedestrians and cyclists killed in collisions with motor vehicles stepped forward to tell their heart-breaking stories.

David Stark told the assembled media about the death of his wife, Erica Stark, on November 6, 2014. She was walking along the sidewalk when a minivan mounted the curb and struck and killed her. She was the mother of three young boys.

Lamentably, Toronto is again heading toward a bad year like 2013, when more than 40 pedestrians and cyclists died. Over the last two years, 78 pedestrians and cyclists have been killed in collisions with motor vehicles. According to a Toronto Public Health report, a driving infraction precedes two-thirds of all pedestrian deaths.

But despite all the talk at City Hall about making our streets safer, this years death toll will likely exceed 40-plus deaths.

The only road users whose fatality numbers dont seem to be going up are drivers. The number of drivers killed in Toronto is in dramatic decline: nine in 2014 and seven in 2013, compared to 26 in 1990 and 30 in 1991.

If we can make cars safer for drivers, why arent we making roads safer for pedestrians, cyclists and persons in mobility devices?

A vulnerable road user law with stiff penalties for conduct that harms them would send a clear message to motorists to think carefully before texting while driving, opening a vehicle door into traffic or going 60 km/h in a 40 km/h zone. The consequences of careless driving are potentially lethal to those sharing the road.

In the U.S., penalties for those convicted under VRU laws include licence suspension, road safety training, community service and even jail time. Convicted drivers would also be obliged to attend court to hear the victim impact statements of the bereaved family.

In a poignant moment at Thursdays press conference, Stark said he doesnt know how to explain to his three young sons why the driver of the car who killed their mom has not called to apologize. A VRU law aims to see fewer parents in that tragic situation.

Albert Koehl and Patrick Brown are lawyers representing the coalition of groups calling for a Vulnerable Road User Law in Ontario.

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