Crosswalk timers increase accident risk...or do they?
Those ubiquitous crosswalk timers of the streets of Montreal and many major cities were designed to keep pedestrians from getting hurt, but a new study out of Toronto suggests accidents have actually gone up because of them.
Researchers at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children say the timers have led to a 26 per cent increase in the number of collisions between cars and pedestrians. Fatal crashes have increased by 50 per cent.
The reasoning, say the study's authors, is that in the few seconds before the timer ticks down to zero, drivers and pedestrians tend to rush through intersections, rather than interpret the signals as a warning to slow down or stay put.
The study, however, appears to contract others conducted in other cities, which may not be as densely populated. A study out of San Francisco in 2006, for instance, showed collisions were cut in half.
Here in Montreal, some boroughs have the timers. St. Laurent borough mayor Alan Desousa says he hasn't seen a spike in accidents because of them, and suggests they're synchronized on purpose with the traffic lights in an effort to curb accidents.
"There's definitely a clear delineation between when the timer ends and when the lights change for traffic to proceed," Desousa says. "So, it does serve a very useful purpose to provide pedestrians with the time and protection they need, but also to provide for the fluidity of car traffic."
CJAD's medical expert Dr. Mitch Shulman says studies like this help science, even if the finding appear to contradict other studies.
"It starts us asking, 'what are the differences, and can we make things better?' he says. "Studies done properly, reported appropriately, under the right circumstances, give us more fuel for thought, more incentive to try and figure out what the underlying problem might be, so we can rectify it."
Photo: La Presse