After spike in collisions, Toronto police chief proposes new traffic enforcement team


Admitting that a steep reduction in Toronto police traffic enforcement has helped boost the number of crashes on city streets, Chief Mark Saunders wants to restore some of the officers dedicated to stopping bad drivers.

Safety advocates who have been demanding Saunders and Mayor John Tory get serious about enforcement in the wake of an alarming jump in the number of Toronto pedestrians killed by drivers — 34 so far this year — call his proposal a start but not enough to really help end the bloodshed.

A report by Saunders for the police services board proposes creation of a “Vision Zero enforcement team” — two shifts, each with three officers and a supervisor, on weekdays, aimed at crash-prone areas identified by data, at an annual cost of $1 million funded by the city.

The officers, working overtime on top of regular hours, would focus on drivers who are speeding, distracted, aggressive or impaired. Aggressive driving includes following too closely, running red lights, speeding, street racing, driving too fast for road conditions and passing improperly.

“It has been well documented through numerous studies that enforcement is a key component to achieving a reduction in deaths and injuries caused through preventable collisions and poor driving behaviour,” the report states, recounting Toronto’s enforcement history.

Between 2003 and 2012, police and the city ran a “Strategic Targeted Enforcement Measures” team — traffic officers “highly visible, pro-active and focused on high collision locations, community safety zones, high speed areas and other locations where the public was at risk.”

“This team strategically deployed its resources throughout the city and were effective in changing driver behaviour,” with a 125-per-cent increase in provincial offences tickets. In the same period, the total number of collisions on Toronto streets dropped by almost one-quarter.

The team was disbanded in 2013 amid staff reductions that continued under the police “modernization” program. Between 2013 and 2018 the number of tickets issued dropped from about 400,000 to just over 200,000, compared to a peak of 700,000 in 2010, according to the report.

After the team disbanded, the number of collisions started rising again, from less than 60,000 to almost 80,000 last year.