Last week, the Toronto Star published an article describing a mind shift locally here in Toronto, across the country and even internationally about how we look at the problem of trauma, injury and death from motor-vehicle accidents. Broadly, many medical providers, infrastructure design experts, urban planners and government officials are switching from seeing injury from traffic accidents as a necessary byproduct of a modern road system to a preventable public-health issue.
The Star interviewed the manager of the trauma program registry at a Toronto hospital, who points out that certain “predictable factors” in these injury-causing incidents can be addressed like “speed, attention, alcohol.” She also believes that better infrastructure can improve road safety, specifically citing improved road lighting, lower limits on speed and traffic-law enforcement.
Ward Vanlaar of the Traffic Injury Research Foundation in Ottawa is cited for the notion that historically, it was acceptable that some fatalities would occur as the price for mobility in our modern transportation system, but that now people are beginning to consider “road safety as a health issue.” As a result, many cities globally when looking at urban design and planning prioritize road safety over mobility, says Vanlaar.
He explains that the transportation system should be designed to mitigate the risk of harm from mistakes humans are likely to make when driving.
This approach, which originated in Sweden, will be part of Toronto’s new road safety plan for 2017-2021. The new plan will consider health as an important part of road and infrastructure design.