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Road Safety Tips for Both Drivers, Pedestrians, and Cyclists During COVID-19 Pandemic

September 30, 2021

Road Safety Tips for Both Drivers, Pedestrians, and Cyclists During COVID-19 Pandemic

Since the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the COVID-19 a worldwide pandemic in March 2020, the global stay-at-home order was expected to cause major changes in road travel and safety. While the pandemic brought a negative impact around the world, it has unexpectedly helped reduce the number of road fatalities in Canadian regions forced to go into lockdown. The International Transport Forum reported that the rate of highway traffic deaths across Canada has dropped by 34% since the country went into lockdown. Additionally, international data also reported that traffic-related injuries have also plummeted at the start of the pandemic.

With more people spending more time in their homes and less time on roads, the pandemic may have changed our behaviours on the road. Let us find out the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on road traffic safety issues.

Impact of Pandemic on Road Safety

Ottawa-based Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) has conducted a survey on random Canadian drivers about their attitudes and beliefs during the pandemic.

“While these results are encouraging, it’s also important to acknowledge that a concerning proportion of respondents indicated they were more likely to engage in risky or dangerous driving behaviours during the pandemic, as compared to before COVID-19,” cautions Ward Vanlaar, Chief Operating Officer of TIRF.

Although we may have seen fewer vehicles on the road, empty streets do not ensure road safety for both pedestrians and drivers. This belief can only give you a false sense of security and put you at a higher risk.

The November 2020 Canadian survey also showed that some respondents self-reported that the rate of distraction, inability to focus or risky driving is much higher than pre-pandemic years.

  • 9.1% of drivers experienced trouble focusing on the road
  • 5.5% go beyond the allowed speed limit
  • 4.2% are distracted while driving
  • 2.4% reported to be driving within 2 hours of consuming alcohol
  • 2.2% are driving within 2 hours of using drugs

Alcohol has always been a factor that contributed to road accidents even before the COVID-19 pandemic. A December 2020 study published in the Journal of Environment and Respiratory Public Health claimed that some drivers who are intoxicated with high levels of alcohol are engaging in dangerous driving.

While this road safety information in Canada shows a minority of people engaging in risky driving behaviour, the numbers still represent more than a million drivers. The impact of the pandemic may have triggered the change in the attitude of some people to engage in dangerous driving during the lockdown. With Canada lifting the lockdown and reopening its economy, a more in-depth study on the effects of the pandemic on a person’s driving behaviour is yet to be determined.

Ontario Highway Traffic Act Recent Changes

Speeding drivers can face harsh penalties under the HTA

The number of pedestrian accidents has spiked during the lockdown due to speeding and impaired driving. To promote Ontario road safety, the government has developed Bill 282, known as the Moving Ontarians More Safety Act 2021 on the 21st of July 2021, enforcing various revisions on the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) to curb street racing and stunt driving to protect young drivers, and vulnerable road users like the cyclists and pedestrians.

The HTA clearly deemed racing and stunt driving as dangerous driving, causing numerous deaths and injuries on the Ontario highways. Between 2013 and 2019, the number of licenses suspended due to street racing and stunt driving has increased by 130%. However, license suspensions have further increased by an additional 52% during the pandemic between March and August 2020. Driving over 50km/hr above the posted speed limit is regarded as stunt driving and is subjected to penalties. However, the MOMS Act redefined the stunt driving speed to 40km/hr over the speed limit. Drivers violating Bill 282 will face harsh penalties under the HTA, including $2000 to $10000 in fines and/or a possible 6 months and above imprisonment. The recent HTA amendments also dictated that a mandatory 1 to 3-year license suspension will be imposed upon the first conviction, 3 to 10 years upon the second conviction, and indefinite license suspension upon the third conviction.

  • Holding Drivers Accountable for Dooring Accidents – The revision made to the HTA specified that any open vehicle door that comes into contact with vulnerable road users, even if the vehicle is stationary, stopped, or parked, is considered to be an accident. Any dooring accidents must be immediately reported to the nearest police station.
  • Defining E-Bikes – Among the changes made on the HTA is the definition of 3 different types of power-assisted bicycles or e-bikes: the bicycle-style, motorcycle style, and mopeds. E-bikes are defined to have 2 or 3 wheels with steering handlebars, operable with pedals while in use and can be propelled solely with muscular power with the pedals. It should also come with 1 or more electric motors not exceeding 500 watts and do not have the ability to run over 32km/hr.

The minimum age of an e-bike driver is now lowered from 16 to 14 years. However, e-bikers driving on highways must be aged 14 and above, while operators of motorcycle-style e-bikes must be over 16 years. Additionally, e-bike drivers who are under 16 years must wear a helmet when driving on the highway to ensure their safety at all times.

Keeping Both Drivers and Pedestrians Safe on the Road

For Pedestrians:

Always use the designated crosswalks

After more than a year of staying at home orders, it finally feels good to get outside for a walk, run, or bike ride around the neighbourhood. In addition to wearing a mask and practicing social distancing, make sure to observe these pedestrian safety practices:

  • Do not jaywalk – Thousands of jaywalking pedestrians are injured and killed every year. Keep in mind that as a pedestrian, you still need to obey the basic traffic laws for safety reasons. Jaywalking means blatantly breaking the traffic rules and regulations. Make sure to use the designated crosswalks when crossing the street to ensure your safety.
  • Always be alert – Using your phones while walking can put you at risk of injuries. Text messaging, browsing the Internet, or listening to music are the most common distractions that take away your attention from the road, increasing your risk of being hit by a car. Like driving, walking also requires a great deal of attention and complex thinking to ensure that you are away from danger, especially if you are walking in areas with heavy traffic.
  • Stay on the sidewalk – Always use the sidewalk whenever possible. If a sidewalk is not available, make sure to walk on the far side of the road facing the traffic to make you more visible to drivers.
  • Make yourself visible – Never assume that all drivers are paying attention to the road. Making yourself more visible to the drivers, especially at night helps ensure your safety. When walking, running, or jogging at night, it is important to wear light-coloured clothing to increase your visibility. Stay in well-lit areas or carry a flashlight to alert drivers of your presence.

For Drivers:

  • Buckle up – Wearing a seatbelt is the most effective way to increase your chances of survival during a car crash. It protects you from getting ejected from the vehicle and keeps you in control of the car. Always make it a practice to wear a seatbelt before igniting the engine of the vehicle.
  • Stay away from your phone – Never text and drive. Texting and calling while driving can increase your risk of getting caught in a vehicular accident. Distracted driving has been a problem among young drivers. Studies reported that fatal crashes are common in drivers over 21 years.
  • Slow down – Learning how to drive safely and slowly can help save your life. Driving over the posted speed limit can increase the severity of crashes. Speeding can reduce the braking power of the vehicle, causing you to lose control of the wheel.
  • Drive sober – Impaired driving is a major risk to the driver, their passengers, and pedestrians, resulting in thousands of deaths and injuries every year. However, the causes of impaired driving are not only limited to consumption of alcohol, drugs, prescription medications, and medical marijuana. Poor vision and drowsy driving are also considered physical impairments that create dangerous driving conditions.

For Cyclists:

Wear proper gear when you go biking

  • Perform a pre-ride safety check – Make sure your bicycle is in good working condition and properly maintained. You also need to wear safety equipment, such as helmets, gloves, bright-coloured cycling clothes, and eyewear. Install front and rear lights to make you more visible to oncoming traffic.
  • Follow traffic rules – Driving a bicycle does not exempt you from the traffic rules. Bicycles are considered as a vehicle that is why you need to follow traffic signs and road markings.
  • Stay alert – Watch out for potholes, broken glass and bottles, curbs, and sewer grates, as they pose a bigger risk to cyclists. Keep your eyes on the road and look far enough ahead so you can easily make an evasive maneuver or stop the bicycle to avoid a crash.
  • Use hand signals – Using hand signals can help you interact with traffic and communicate your intentions to stop and turn.

Consult a personal lawyer when involved in a vehicular accident

Motor-vehicle accidents that result in serious injuries a reliable personal injury lawyer in Whitby or anywhere in Ontario to ensure that you get the compensation you deserve. Call Michelle Linka Law at (905) 448-7810 for a free consultation or fill in our contact form to send us your message or queries.

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