‘Not one easy solution’ amid deadly year on Winnipeg roads

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The heightened death toll on Winnipeg roads this year is “bleak” and “awful,” an active transportation advocate says.

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The heightened death toll on Winnipeg roads this year is “bleak” and “awful,” an active transportation advocate says.

Katheryn Loewen, senior sustainable transportation co-ordinator at the Green Action Centre and a Bike Winnipeg board member, said most pedestrian deaths are preventable, despite often being written off as accidents.

“Where the blame lies, it depends on the situation, but where the responsibility lays, it’s usually pretty clear it’s either in road design of the city and the manufacturers of cars,” Loewen said Wednesday.

A pedestrian was killed Dec. 3 on the southbound Century Street entrance to the St. James Bridge in a two-vehicle collision. In total, at least 21 people, including vehicle occupants, have been killed in road collisions this year, compared to nine in 2021. (Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press files).

“One person involved is wielding a heavy machine that is capable of instantly killing someone if they’re not careful, and the other person, the pedestrian, is not… The responsibility is imbalanced.”

Manufacturers are building autos larger than in previous generations, worsening injuries when collisions happen, Loewen said. Cities could increase the number of crosswalks and improve pedestrian infrastructure — with sidewalks farther and protected from roads — to reduce risks, she added.

“It’s a big issue and there’s not one easy solution, but road design is definitely a big factor,” Loewen said.

“People should be able to get around on foot and on bike and on scooter and wheelchairs and not be worried about (collisions) like this happening to them constantly.”

Eleven pedestrians had been killed in Winnipeg so far this year, compared to six in all of 2021, police data show. An additional six pedestrians have been seriously injured after bring struck by vehicles.

Most recently, a pedestrian was killed Dec. 3 on the southbound Century Street entrance to the St. James Bridge in a two-vehicle collision.

In total, at least 21 people, including vehicle occupants, have been killed in road collisions this year, compared to nine in 2021.

Three pedestrians were killed in hit-and-runs in less than a week in October, while another hit-and-run claimed the life of an 81-year-old vehicle occupant in the same time frame.

In 2021, two people were charged for failing to remain at the scene of a collision in which a pedestrian was killed. Three face such charges so far this year, according to the latest police data available.

The Winnipeg Police Service would not provide any updates Wednesday on the four fatal October hit-and-run investigations.

A request first made Tuesday to speak with the head of the police traffic division in general terms about collision investigations was denied Wednesday, with a spokeswoman saying the inspector was not available “at this time.”

A former city police officer — who retired in 1991 and now runs a firm focused on helping drivers fight traffic tickets — said collision investigations can be difficult.

“Hit-and-run or leaving the scene of an accident — that’s always a tricky investigation,” said Len Eastoe of Traffic Ticket Experts.

Eyewitness accounts, licence plate numbers and dash, business and home surveillance video footage are among the crucial evidence that needs to be collected, he said.

Police have made public pleas for such footage to be brought forward to investigators in the spate of October hit-and-runs.

Pieces of vehicles left at the scene too are key, Eastoe said, because the wreckage can be sometimes tracked to a specific type of vehicle. “Sometimes, they then have the colour or make and model even of the vehicle they’re looking for.”

Police have past said traffic investigators use, among other tools, a scanner to create 3D images of collision scenes in reconstructions.

Eastoe said recovering vehicles involved in collisions is “huge” for police.

“It gives you all sorts of other possibilities. Who’s the registered owner? It gives you a person to talk to in that regard. Sometimes, the vehicles are stolen and just haven’t been reported that way yet, and that may be legitimate. It may also be bogus that it’s been reported stolen,” said the former cop who worked in uniformed patrol and plainclothes.

“If they can’t say it was stolen or you can prove it wasn’t, then the owner can be held responsible.”

erik.pindera@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @erik_pindera

Erik Pindera

Erik Pindera
Reporter

Erik Pindera reports for the city desk, with a particular focus on crime and justice.

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Updated on Wednesday, December 7, 2022 4:57 PM CST: Fixes formatting on factbox

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