This year, 24 pedestrians have been killed by cars in Toronto. To me, these are more than just statistics—I knew two of the people killed.
I just returned from the funeral for Erica Stark, a 42-year-old mother of three school-aged boys. She was a warm, compassionate person who loved her family, books and fostered guide dogs. She was walking one of her dogs, in fact, when a minivan drove onto the sidewalk and hit her. She died at the scene. The crash is currently under criminal investigation.
In June, seven-year-old Georgia Walsh was hit by a car turning on a red light. She was a spunky kid who loved colouring, her friends and her three brothers. Perhaps you've seen the "Slow Down, Child at Play" signs on people’s lawns in Toronto recently. They were inspired by her death. The driver has been charged.
They are just two stories among many more. The aftermath of such random and tragic accidents reaches across communities and time zones. How do we prevent the number of senseless car-related deaths from increasing, especially when drivers and pedestrians, alike, are almost constantly distracted by technology? (To be clear, Erica was not on her phone when she was walking her dog, and we don’t know about the driver, yet.)
Since little Georgia’s death, I've been extra vigilant about limiting my kids' distractions while crossing the street.
According to Parachute Canada, a child pedestrian is killed or injured every three hours. On average, 30 young pedestrians are killed in Canada each year and 2,412 are injured. The most dangerous time is between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. when students are heading home from school and drivers are returning home from work.
In a recent poll by Angus Reid, a fifth of 13- to 18-year-olds admitted that they don’t always look when crossing the street and 15 percent admit they often text while crossing. Half of the teens say that they have been hit or narrowly missed by cars while walking.
Parachute Canada, who sponsored the Angus Reid poll, is trying to get the message out that distracted walking is a huge safety risk. As part of a national awareness campaign, students at Northern Secondary School (my alma mater) held a moment of silence to remember a student who was killed while jogging in 1995.
The national Moment of Silence campaign is encouraging Canadians to take a moment before crossing the street to put their devices down and pay attention to their surroundings.
Parents need to talk to their kids about crossing the street carefully without distractions. Loud music, texting and reading iFunny are all too huge a risk to take. Drivers should never have a phone in their hand while driving, but even if the driver is at fault, when it comes to a conflict between pedestrian and vehicle, we know who almost always "wins."
We still don’t know what caused the car that struck Erica to jump the curb, but I never, ever want to go to see another family devastated by a preventable death. These deaths are not just statistics—they are real people whose families are mourning their senseless deaths. We all have a part to play in making our streets safer, no matter what age.