The Halifax Regional Municipality released its semi-annual report on road safety last week, and says there’s much work to be done in 2019 to reduce pedestrian injuries.
The document was made public on Feb. 22, the same day that a pedestrian was killed in an alleged hit-and-run accident in Dartmouth – the year’s first fatality on HRM streets.
It confirms that pedestrians continue to be hit most commonly at traffic signals, and often when vehicles are turning left.
The municipality will undertake a number of initiatives to reduce those numbers, said traffic manager Taso Koutroulakis, starting with the creation of a database that will help it understand the factors that contribute to crashes.
“From a superficial view, there is a lot that relates to driver distraction and the fact that motorists are approaching a crosswalk and they’re not ensuring there’s a pedestrian there,” he explained.
“The data piece has been a challenge for us up to now, and what we’re hoping to do is have a system in place where we are easily able to manipulate that data to get to some of these root causes.”
Last year, to help draw driver attention to the spots where pedestrians may be walking, the municipality installed or improved 25 crosswalks throughout the HRM, and added fluorescent stripes to the posts at 53 of them.
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It will build on that momentum in 2019, by installing new rectangular flashing beacons at a number of crosswalks, and adding traffic calming measures, like speed reductions or speed bumps to high-density roadways.
Koutroulakis says 15 roadways have been identified and more will be selected in the coming months.
The municipality is also creating a road safety steering committee.
“It’s never great when I get the email and I see there’s been another fatality on a roadway, whether it’s been a pedestrian or otherwise,” he said.
“Based on our review of statistics over an eight-year period, we had about 14 fatalities on HRM roadways a year, so our overall goal is to get that down to zero, and it’s tough.”
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Norm Collins, president of the Crosswalk Safety Society, said the municipality didn’t do enough in 2018, and its goals for 2019 aren’t ambitious enough.
He said he’d like to see low-cost measures, particular the crosswalk flag program and the installation of zebra stripes, expanded to all crosswalks. Eventually, he said, he’d like to see the rules of the road change so that cars may not pass through an intersection while pedestrians have the right of way.
“Any time you put the two groups in the same space, it strikes us as you’re just asking for problems,” he explained.
“We believe they should be totally separated.”
Last year, four pedestrians were killed in the HRM and 150 were injured. In 2017, those numbers were zero and 143, respectively.