09/19/2012 01:10 EDT | Updated 11/19/2012 05:12 EST

Lower speed limits suggested in pedestrian safety report

Ontario's chief coroner has issued a number of recommendations for making streets safer for pedestrians, including giving municipalities more flexibility to lower speed limits and the mandatory installation of side guards on heavy trucks.

Those are some of the conclusions of a report headed by Dr. Andrew McCallum that examined all 95 accidental pedestrian deaths that occurred across the province in 2010.

The review found that 36 per cent of the pedestrians who died that year were over the age of 65 — an age group that accounts for only 13.2 per cent of the provincial population.

It also found that 67 per cent of pedestrian deaths occurred on roads that had a posted speed limit of over 50 kilometres per hour, whereas five per cent of deaths occurred on roads with speed limits under 50 km/h.

The report recommends that the provincial government move to amend the Highway Traffic Act so municipalities can themselves be allowed to change unsigned speed limits on residential streets to 40 km/h from 50 km/h, as is the current standard.

Municipalities "should consider" lowering speed limits to 30 km/h on residential streets and adopting speed limits of 40 km/h on other roads, says the report.

Transport Canada should move to make side guards mandatory for all heavy trucks, the report recommends. Heavy trucks were involved in 12 per cent of pedestrian fatalities for 2010.

Side guards are used to prevent pedestrians and cyclists from ending up under a truck.

Province will review findings

The report also calls for the provincial government to create a "walking strategy" for Ontario, which includes a goal to cut pedestrian fatalities by 50 per cent by 2022. It also calls for the government to "identify funding specific to pedestrian facilities" within its municipal funding programs.

It calls for the adoption of a "complete streets" approach, one that designs the road network with everyone's needs in mind —not just those of motorists — when developing new communities across the province.

Pedestrian advocacy organization Canada Walks applauded the report's recommendations.

"We look forward to working with the Office of the Chief Coroner, and with our stakeholders in communities across Ontario — and indeed Canada — to leverage these recommendations and ensure their implementation," said Jacky Kennedy, the director of Canada Walks.

"We appreciate the coroner's efforts to identify common factors affecting pedestrian safety and will review his recommendations in a timely manner," said Ontario Transportation Minister Bob Chiarelli in a statement.

The provincial Liberal government will continue to work with municipalities and road-safety organizations "to support community-based education programs that help keep pedestrians safe," he said.

The most common type of pedestrian fatality occurred during mid-block collisions, which accounted for 31 per cent of all fatalities. The next most common fatality occurred when the pedestrian was hit on the sidewalk or the shoulder, which accounted for 14 per cent of all fatalities.

Around 20 per cent of pedestrians who died were distracted in some way, including the use of a mobile device, cellphone, MP3 player, or while engaging in other activities such as pushing a shopping cart, riding a skateboard or walking a dog.