Hundreds of pedestrians get killed in Canada annually. How to stay safe this winter

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Icy conditions dominate roads, sidewalks, pathways
WATCH: Icy conditions dominate roads, sidewalks, pathways – Oct 26, 2023

Canadians are bracing for a challenging winter on the roads as the weather gets slushier and days get shorter.

The risks of collision are higher in the winter months whether you’re behind the wheel, on a bike or on foot, police say.

“There’s certainly more risks to everybody out there. We see more vehicle collisions … interactions … and safety risks involving all road users,” Sgt. Steve Addison of the Vancouver Police Department said.

Poor visibility, snowstorms, rain, mechanical car problems in the cold and more distracted driving are a recipe for collisions that can get people injured or killed.

“As the days get shorter, as summer turns to fall and fall turns to winter, it’s incumbent on everybody to slow down,” Addison said in an interview with Global News.

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Click to play video: 'Traffic Tips: Fall pedestrian safety campaign'
Traffic Tips: Fall pedestrian safety campaign

On average, more than 300 pedestrians get killed in Canada every year, according to Statistics Canada data from 2018 to 2020 published this week.

Intersections are the most common location for pedestrian deaths, with roughly 21 per cent of all pedestrian fatalities taking place while crossing an intersection of at least two public roadways or in a roundabout, StatCan reported.

Approximately 14 per cent of pedestrian deaths were also reported on non-intersection roads, 13 per cent on highways and 10 per cent at parking lots or private property, the data showed.

More than a quarter (26 per cent) of the fatalities occurred at nighttime, between 6 p.m. and 5:59 a.m. local time.

What causes road collisions?

One in five pedestrian deaths from 2018 to 2020 involved environmental factors, such as challenging weather, poor road conditions, decreased visibility or infrastructure issues, according to the StatCan report.

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Meanwhile, the driver or pedestrian had consumed alcohol, cannabis or other drugs in 20 per cent of the fatal cases.

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The pedestrians who got killed were reported to be wearing dark clothing in nine per cent of the fatalities from 2018 to 2020.

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Over 800 distracted driving tickets issued in August: SGI

Meanwhile, there is also no shortage of road rage in Canada, with incidents of people losing their temper reported across the country.

Increased traffic congestion can lead to frustration — but more distracted drivers are also adding fuel to the fire, according to one psychologist who spoke to Global News in June.

“We do know that distracted driving has gone up and that tends to frustrate other drivers and frustration goes hand in hand with aggression, so you could see how this could spill over,” said Tracy Vaillancourt, a University of Ottawa professor and president of the International Society for Research on Aggression.

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The distraction stems from people using their phones and paying less attention on the road, which is why you’re more likely to see “erratic driving,” Vaillancourt said.

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High schools students take lessons on the dangers of distracted and impaired driving

Distracted driving is a leading cause of death and injury on the road, Addison said.

But road safety is a “shared responsibility” for all road users, he added.

“We always remind people that it’s everybody’s responsibility, no matter how you’re moving around, to make sure that you’re obeying the rules of the road, you’re acting safely and respectfully so that we don’t have any more tragedies than we’ve already had.”

How to stay safe

There are several precautions all road users can take to remain safe this winter.

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The Ontario government’s website reminds drivers to slow down, put down their phones, give space to others and not use cruise control on wet, snowy or icy pavement.

When there is a blizzard or poor visibility, drivers should use the vehicle’s full lighting system, the province says.

Click to play video: 'Snowy weather continues to cause issues on Calgary roads'
Snowy weather continues to cause issues on Calgary roads

In October, Ottawa Fire Services ran the annual Be Safe Be Seen campaign to promote safe travels as the seasons change and nights get longer.

As part of that campaign, reflective bands and flashing lights were distributed at select fire stations throughout the capital last month.

The city stressed the importance of wearing reflective gear to its residents.

“Whether walking or rolling, wear lights or reflectors to make sure you are seen at night,” the city of Ottawa says on its website.

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Click to play video: 'Traffic Tips: Back-to-school safety for drivers and pedestrians'
Traffic Tips: Back-to-school safety for drivers and pedestrians

Pedestrians are also urged to follow the traffic rules and be extremely careful when crossing the road.

“If you’re walking, make sure you’re crossing at marked intersections or from corner to corner, you’re obeying the traffic lights,” Addison said.

Before crossing, hold your hand out in front of you to indicate you are waiting to cross and only start walking when the driver has fully stopped, the Ontario government advises on its website.

“Make sure drivers see you before you cross, make eye contact before stepping onto the road,” the province says.

Addison said no matter how you choose to commute, “give yourself extra time, use some common sense.”

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