HALIFAX - Norm Collins steps into a crosswalk in Halifax and for an instant, his body is hidden from oncoming traffic.
Throwing his hands into the air, he points to a spot a few metres ahead of a pole where he says crosswalk lines should have been painted.
"A simple design change can add to safety," he says.
Collins, a retired actuary and an advocate for crosswalk safety, says poor engineering, spotty enforcement and a lack of awareness campaigning contribute to a surge of pedestrians who are struck on Canadian streets in the dark, winter months.
Police statistics and studies done in Nova Scotia and Toronto say crosswalk collisions have been rising.
In Toronto, police say they've recently reached a 10-year high in pedestrian fatalities, with 39 killed in the city as of Dec. 20, including 22 people over 65 years old.
In Halifax, police say 25 people were hit as of Christmas Eve, including a 43-year-old man in a wheelchair struck in a school driveway and a 31-year-old woman sent to hospital with a concussion while strolling through a lit crosswalk.
"It is one of those things that really grabs you right in the stomach," said Coun. Barry Dalrymple, who chairs a Halifax committee trying to find ways to reduce the toll of injuries and deaths at crosswalks.
Dalrymple said he's amazed by the number of pedestrians and drivers who lack basic knowledge on crossing rules, though he adds that he realizes many crosswalks need design changes.
A Dalhousie University group that studies transportation recently published a study that looked at 74,000 collisions in Nova Scotia between 2007 and 2011.
Ahsan Habib, a professor of community planning, said his team found the annual toll of pedestrians struck by drivers climbed annually from 326 to 379 over those five years, though the number of deaths dropped from nine to seven in the same time period.
Habib said in 46 per cent of those collisions, the pedestrians weren't at fault as they attempted to make legal crossings. And 44 per cent of the time, pedestrians were in marked crossings, intersections or crosswalks in between intersections.
"It's been a problem for a long time and we haven't resolved it yet," said Habib.
Standing at a busy intersection on Halifax's Spring Garden Road, Habib watches as a truck pulls in front of a pedestrian and then stops in the middle of the crossing, forcing people to scoot around the vehicle on slippery roads.
In other instances, pedestrians talking on cellphones come to the crossing and don't look both ways before hurrying across.
The engineer and community planner says regular advertising campaigns urging both drivers and pedestrians to make eye contact are needed, along with more police enforcement at crossings with high accident rates.
But cities also need to re-engineer intersections with measures such as installing traffic lights and painting more visible "zebra" stripes at crossings, he said.
"It's very important to put in more and more countermeasures to make people more visible," said Habib.
"In all kinds of studies like the one we have done in Nova Scotia, as well as those done in Vancouver and Toronto, we are consistently finding intersections are where the highest number of pedestrian collisions are occurring."
In another area of Halifax, Collins stands at a four-lane crossing as cars whiz by. Once again, a telephone pole blocks the drivers' view of pedestrians as they take their first steps onto Pleasant Street, a road in the suburb of Dartmouth.
In July, two young women were struck at the location after a car went around a bus they had exited and hit them as they attempted to cross the road as amber lights flashed overhead.
Collins argues earlier indicators ahead of the flashing lights would notify cars that a pedestrian crossing is ahead. Otherwise, he said drivers may simply not have enough time to react if they're distracted and driving at the speed limits on the busy, arterial road.
He's also pushed for other methods such as making handheld red flags available in buckets at either side of a crossing.
"We've had awareness and education campaigns every year since 2005, but here we are with the problem not only continuing, but increasing and we have to do more than we have," he said.
Taso Koutroulakis, a traffic engineer with Halifax, said there is a lack of detailed data from the province over the past five years on what causes the accidents at any given intersection, making it difficult to know what traffic solutions would prevent future injuries and deaths.
"Without data to evaluate, it puts us in a tough spot," said the manager of traffic and right-of-way.
As traffic engineers await better information, pedestrians should take steps to protect their safety, he said.
"Just because there's two white lines ... doesn't necessarily mean a vehicle will stop for you. Make sure a vehicle has stopped for you before you cross the street," said Koutroulakis.
"If it's between you and a vehicle, the pedestrian is almost always going to lose."