Toronto Public Health published a report this week analyzing the police statistics for collisions where vehicles hit pedestrians and cyclists, Pedestrian and Cycling Safety in Toronto (PDF).
The report counters some common myths that are heard whenever vehicle-on-pedestrian collisions are reported in the news. The first reaction, from police and the public, is often that pedestrians are always jaywalking, so their own behaviour is the cause of the problem.
However, the report’s analysis of the statistics (Table 18, p. 27) shows that, in 67% of cases, pedestrians had the right of way when they were hit by a vehicle. Only 19% of the time were the pedestrians crossing without the right of way, and the other 14% cannot be determined.
Another common reaction is that pedestrians are hit because they’re texting or on the phone or otherwise not paying attention. But the report’s analysis shows that pedestrians were inattentive in some way only 13% of the time (p. 30-31).
In other words, most pedestrians are hit while they are obeying the law, and paying attention to their surroundings, but a vehicle comes at them in a way they can’t possibly see, predict or avoid. It is time to stop the knee-jerk blaming of the victim whenever pedestrians are hit.