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Pedestrian countdown signals cause more car crashes: study

TORONTO – A Toronto study has found that pedestrian countdown signals cause more car crashes, backing up similar research released in April.

The study by the Hospital for Sick Children’s Dr. Andrew Howard said the rate of crashes increased by 26 per cent at intersections with countdown signals, as some motorists make a run for it when they see the light changing.

Of those, the rate of serious or fatal collisions was close to 50 per cent.

There are 1,965 such countdown signal intersections in Toronto.

“We’ve only just begun to do different things at different intersections in Toronto, that might potentially hold a huge promise,” Dr. Howard told 680News, adding that he hopes the study leads to changes to make the countdown clocks safer for everyone.

The research was published in the medical journal Injury Prevention on Sept. 23. Click here to read the study.

In April, University of Toronto PhD students Arvind Magesan and Sacha Kapoor had similar findings. They decided to find out how the signs were working and if they were encouraging risky driving behaviour.

The pair looked at police data from all the intersections in Toronto from 2004-2008 — at the time, there were just 1,764 intersections with countdown signals. The five-year period spanned the time before and after the city started installing the signals in 2006.

They found the countdowns caused about 22 more car crashes per month on average or an increase of more than five per cent.

Read their full study here.

At Church and Bloor, Torontonians told 680News as motorists, they react to the countdown signals in different ways.

“I always enter the roadway if the number’s on there,” one man said, Friday. “I still cross.”

However, Flori says she doesn’t take chances, and starts slowing down “when it’s just down to four or five.”

James says it’s the pedestrians that are the problem.

“I don’t think they’re really paying any attention to the timer,” he told 680News. “They’re going to cross whenever they want, whether the light is red or green.”

But another man said that for pedestrians, “I do think it is necessary for their safety.”

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