U of T expert attributes ‘dozens of deaths’ to decline in Toronto police traffic ticketing

December 12/2019

by Toronto Star’s David Rider, City Hall Bureau Chief and Ed Tubb

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Tickets for moving violations have dropped by nearly two-thirds since 2013. Meanwhile, the number of pedestrians and cyclists killed has gone up nearly as dramatically. They include Erica Stark, a 42-year-old mother of three killed while walking on a sidewalk in 2014, and Gary Sim, a 70-year-old cyclist run over in 2017.

University of Toronto epidemiologist Dr. David Fisman said the two facts — reduced enforcement and increased deaths — are no coincidence.

While it stands to reason that a drop in enforcement might lead to more collisions and more deaths, Fisman said that well-established public health methods — the same ones used to uncover the toll of cigarette smoking in the 1960s — let anyone test that assumption, something he did this month using data from the Star.

Fisman’s startling conclusion: the deaths of dozens of Torontonians, possibly many more, can be attributed to the decline in Toronto police enforcement of Highway Traffic Act (HTA) offences between 2009 and 2018, most of which came after 2013.

“Post-2012, you get a profound increase in fatalities” on Toronto streets, said Fisman, head of epidemiology at the U of T’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health. At the same time “police-issued tickets dropped like a rock.”

Star analysis of ticket data shows Toronto drivers are far less likely to get a ticket for risky driving behaviours now than they were a decade ago. Toronto police issued roughly 234,000 fewer tickets last year than in 2009, a much steeper fall than for any other police service in the GTA.

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