With a smile curling into her cheeks and her left hand resting on a cane, Danielle Morency doesn’t exactly project an air of menace.
But try telling that to the truck driver who recently came within a few feet of mowing her down on Décarie Blvd.
“I took my cane and whacked the side of his truck. On purpose!” said Morency, an elderly Montrealer who recently gave up her car so she can use public transit to get around. “The driver opened his door and I told him, ‘You know, you just crossed on my right of way.’
“He sort of gave me the finger and I said, ‘If you have beef with me, let’s call the police.’ He just left. But I think he’ll be more careful next time.”
Morency was in attendance at the West Hill Community Centre Thursday as police gave a pedestrian safety presentation to seniors in Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. The event came two weeks after an 89-year-old pedestrian was fatally hit by a truck on Décarie Blvd.
He was the 19th pedestrian killed by a motorist on the streets of Montreal this year and the third in C.D.N.—N.D.G. With a month to go until 2020, there have already been more pedestrian deaths this year than in all of last year, when 18 pedestrians died.
Police say 70 per cent of this year’s victims are 60 or older.
There are biological reasons for this, the police say: As a person ages, their reflexes slow down and their senses dull. Seniors also drive less and use public transit as a means to get around.
A part of the solution, police say, is making sure seniors practise safe habits when crossing the street. Police Const. Eric Diamond said the 30 seconds a person might save by jaywalking or crossing in-between intersections could land them a trip to the emergency room.
“There’s even situations where you’re at the crosswalk and you legally have the right of way, but the driver doesn’t see you,” said Diamond, who works on road safety at Station 11 in N.D.G. “But if the driver doesn’t see you and hits you, would you rather be right and dead? You have to make sure the driver knows you’re crossing, even if the driver is at fault.”
Police also say there’s a tendency to blame drivers in the vast majority of accidents when, according to internal studies, pedestrians are at fault 41 per cent of the time.
Morency says one of her friends was recently struck by a car and concussed, but that it hasn’t changed her approach to jaywalking.
“I said, ‘If you keep this up, the next time I see you will be on the other side,’ ” Morency said.
C.D.N.—N.D.G. MayorSue Montgomery says the borough is investing in structural ways to make the streets safer for pedestrians. This month, the city announced it would invest $58.5 million to add electronic countdowns and pedestrian signals to all intersections with traffic lights. That’s roughly 1,300 new intersections.
“It’s very worrying,” said Montgomery, referring to the recent string of pedestrian deaths. “We’re doing everything we can to improve safety. … We need to make motorists aware that they need to slow down.”
With snow-removal season at hand, more than 1,000 trucks will be deployed at a time and — despite a series of technological advancements in the field of transportation — those vehicles come with enormous blind spots.
“Most of those truck drivers are independent contractors, they’re working long hours under tight deadlines,” said Gaëtan Légaré, president of L’Association nationale des camionneurs artisans. “Any fatal accident is tragic for the families of the victims, but the drivers have to live with that, too. We need you, as pedestrians, to make sure you’re seen by the driver when you cross the street.”
For Morency, a lifelong driver, it’s a matter of perspective.
“When I drove every day and I saw someone with white hair and a cane, I thought ‘Oh boy, this’ll take awhile’,” Morency said. “Well, now I’m on the other side of that and I must say that with injuries to my knee, my hips, it doesn’t take much for me to fall over and be in danger. So I’d say to drivers, ‘Be vigilant and I’ll do my best, too’.”