OPINION: Distracted pedestrians cause some of Toronto’s dreadful accident stats

by | Feb 10, 2017 | Opinion

By: Jesse Bonello

In 2016, an estimated 43 pedestrians died in Toronto, making it one of the deadliest years since 2002, when Toronto saw 50 pedestrians die. 

Drivers are more distracted than ever before and receive the vast majority of blame in accidents involving pedestrians — but pedestrians aren’t immune to distraction.

Most people, at least once in their life, are told, ‘You have your whole life ahead of you’, but how often have you seen someone walking while looking down, with a mobile device in hand?

According to State Farm Canada, just over four out of every 10 Canadians admits to distracted walking at some point during the day.

The firm also found in the survey that 45 per cent of Canadians admit to wearing headphones and listening to music while walking, and over 70 per cent admit to jaywalking.

RCMP’s definition of distracted driving is a driver’s judgement being compromised when they are not fully focused on the road. What seems like a harmless conversation with your buddy in the passenger seat can actually be a form of distracted driving. That same definition should apply to pedestrians when they aren’t fully focused on their surroundings.

Many pedestrians lose that focus once they feel their phone vibrating in their pocket, or when their not so favorite song starts playing through their headphones.

It’s those exact moments when the phones are in hand that people’s tunnel vision kicks in. Four out of every 10 Canadians admit to having those experiences on a daily basis. 

The same argument can be made for drivers who, despite the laws and legislation, still reach for their phones while driving, but that’s yet another good reason for pedestrians to stay alert.

After all, two wrongs don’t make a right, and could well lead to a devastating accident.

Last October, Global News reported on a poll from Insights West that found 66 per cent of Canadians would support “distracted walking” legislation in their municipality.

Such a legal move would presumably forbid the use of hand-held cell phones by people who are in a roadway.

Such considerations have reached the political level.

Last July, Toronto city councillor Frances Nunziata put forth a motion, proposing the provincial transportation minister consider a regulation under the Highway Traffic Act.

The latter would forbid pedestrians from “actively using a handheld wireless communication device or handheld electronic entertainment device” while on “any travelled portion of a roadway.”

The Council passed the motion with a vote of 26-15, and TorontoMayor John Tory was among the supporters.

Despite that momentum, the transportation minister rejected the regulation.

Last year saw 43 pedestrian deaths in Toronto, up from 38 in 2015. Fatalities are rising and “close calls” continue to happen far too often.

Laws and legislations are in place for drivers because of rising distractions behind the wheel, but more numbers show that getting Torontonians to look up while walking can also be a tough task.

Everyone focuses on why the chicken crossed the road, but the important aspect is how you crossed the road because no one ever mentioned a cellphone, headphones or jaywalking.