The dangers of driving in Montreal

Archive Graphic by Zeze Le Lin

Recent pedestrian fatalities have sparked a conversation about safe driving in the city

Foot over the brake, eyes in constant motion, and a fear of the unknown. This is my daily state while driving to Concordia’s Loyola campus along Sherbrooke St. where pedestrians, cyclists, buses and other motorists roam freely, regardless of traffic rules. A recipe for a much-too-common disaster.

An 87-year-old woman died after being hit by a truck on St-Roch St. last Tuesday according to CTV news. The city is urgently seeking solutions to this ongoing problem.

Between Sept. 7 and 12, five pedestrians were struck by drivers in Montreal. Police spokesperson André Durocher suggested to CBC that distractions caused by phone screens may be the reason for the accidents. According to CBC, a common denominator found in recent years indicates that trucks turning a corner is the main cause of cyclist and pedestrian accidents.

I find the synchronisation of pedestrian and motorist lights to be inefficient in Montreal. The driver’s light often turns green once the red hand and countdown begin for pedestrians. This situation causes the pedestrian and the motorist to both be engaged. The pedestrian does have the priority in this case, yet this allows the driver to turn even if a pedestrian is crossing. When rounding a corner, a distracted driver might not see an incoming pedestrian. My roommate recalled a time when a driver cut her off while crossing the road; I recall a time I’ve cut off a pedestrian—by accident, of course.

In my experience, a pedestrian will often cross when only a few seconds remain. Those moments are the last seconds a motorist has to turn when the light is yellow before blocking oncoming traffic. As such, drivers will often accelerate as a pedestrian may begin to dash through the intersection, which can cause a collision. Drivers have the responsibility to prioritize pedestrians, yet pedestrians must still have the common sense to only cross when sufficient time remains.

Traffic is a very important factor in pedestrian accidents, which is mostly caused by Montreal’s never-ending construction, which takes drivers on endless detours. Motorists become impatient, and their driving becomes reckless, especially during rush hour.

In fact, an analysis by the Montreal Gazette showed that from 2006 to 2011, the majority of pedestrian accidents happened at 8 a.m or 5 p.m. This indicates drivers are rushed to get to work on time or are impatient to get home, which impacts their driving.

I believe a motorist has the responsibility to ensure their safety and those of others, regardless of their state of mind. After all, it is not the pedestrian’s fault the motorist didn’t wake up on time. I believe wider roads may also help with reducing traffic and increasing construction.

I’m from a small town and learned how to drive there. Now, I drive in Montreal and that transition was huge. Statistics Canada recorded a total of 8.4 million registered vehicles in Quebec in 2017, which has a population of 8.1 million. Montreal has a population of 1.7 million. Based on the statistics in Montreal alone, at least one million motorists are on the road daily––a huge change from a small town.

A prevention campaign Vision Zéro, that was created in 2017, aims to reduce the number of motor accidents by producing awareness videos and implementing security measures. The measures include installing priority lights for cyclists and a pilot project implementing more four-way traffic stops.

“Education alone is rarely effective in reducing traffic accidents,’’ Marie-Soleil Cloutier, a road security expert with the INRS research university, told CTV news. She suggested changes in infrastructure, such as speed bumps, curb extensions and adjustments to light timing will have a real impact. Generally improving road conditions would improve driving; having to contour potholes every few metres doesn’t allow for ‘’smooth driving.’’ To reduce accidents, drivers and pedestrians must collaborate to make the streets of Montreal safer—for everyone.

Archive graphic by Zeze Le Lin


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