City holds Vision Zero summit to drive down traffic fatalities

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Councillors, road safety groups and police officers gathered at city hall Wednesday to push forward Vision Zero, a plan launched by the city to eliminate traffic fatalities after the deadliest year for pedestrians in a decade. 

Coun. Jaye Robinsonm who represents Ward 25, Don Valley West, hosted the summit along with staff from the city's Transportation Services Division to discuss safety initiatives and what the next steps should be to make Toronto's streets safer. . 

Earlier this year, Mayor John Tory said the city was going to take immediate steps to reduce the number of pedestrian and cyclist deaths on Toronto streets. 

Last year, 43 pedestrians were killed on Toronto roads — the highest number in 10 years. In 2017, there have already been 20 deaths on the roads, including motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.

These measures, part of the city's new road safety plan, include:

- Creating seniors' safety zones at 12 locations.

- Installing red light cameras at 76 new locations.

- Conducting road safety audits at 14 locations deemed high risk for collisions.

- Lowering speed limits along 32 more corridors.

- Increasing pedestrian walk times at 50 more intersections.

- Expanding the school "Watch Your Speed" program at 20 more locations.

Robinson said the city will also be looking at places where pedestrians have been hit by cars while crossing mid-block.

"We're working very closely with the police to identify where the highest place of incidents are and we're tackling those areas of Toronto first," she said. "It only takes a couple of bad weather events where we have a lot of rain and a situation where it's dark and the visibility is low and the outcome is terrifying."

For Sgt. Brett Moore with Toronto Police Services, getting access to information about the most problematic areas in the city for road safety is important.

"We want to make sure we're putting our resources and our officers out there on the front line to be most effective," he said. 

Vision Zero, according to its website, can be defined in one sentence: "No loss of life is acceptable." It is based on the idea that people are human and make errors.

'Near misses'

The city is also looking at preventing collisions by paying closer attention to "near misses" or incidents and locations where a pedestrian, cyclist or motorist came close to being struck. 

"It is more data that helps us focus on where our priorities should be — what neighbourhoods, streets, communities we should focus on so it is safer for residents," said Robinson. 

She said the city wants to push forward with proposed changes before autumn because it is a "tough" time of the year for road safety.

"We see the time change brings dusk earlier, weather conditions aren't great, [so] we worry about the fall," she said. "We're kick-starting this early in the year to make sure by the time we circle to the fall we're in a better place."