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Higher rates of pedestrian deaths, injuries in poorer areas

By Kirsten McMahon, AdvocateDaily.com Managing Editor

Recent studies which show pedestrians in low-income areas face a higher risk of getting killed or injured in collisions is disheartening and further contributes to the cycle of poverty, says Rhino Legal Finance Inc. president and CEO Larry Herscu.

One study conducted by CBC Toronto found that nearly 50 per cent more of the collisions in which pedestrians were either killed or seriously injured happened in the city’s poorest neighbourhoods.

“The discrepancy is even wider when it comes to vulnerable road users — youth under 20 and seniors over 65,” the article states, citing another study from the Hospital for Sick Children (Sick Kids), York University and ICES, which suggests children in poorer areas of Ontario face a higher risk of getting hit by vehicles than those in wealthier areas.

Global News reports the study conducted by Sick Kids found that despite a focus of Canadian health policy on reducing socioeconomic disparities in health, the number of emergency department visits involving children who were hit by cars differs by income level and that children in lower-income areas are at greater risk of being hit by motor vehicles.

The study also revealed:

  • Teens aged 15 to 19 accounted for 51 per cent of emergency department visits due to pedestrian-motor vehicle collisions and pre-teens aged 10 to 14 accounted for 26 per cent of visits

  • 73 per cent of collisions occurred in cities, and 20 per cent happened in suburbs

Herscu tells AdvocateDaily.com both studies seem to be consistent with other reports he’s read.

“The facts seem to line up and say pretty much the same thing— there are disproportionate rates of people dying or being injured in poor neighbourhoods,” he says. “Many of those areas were designed for traffic and not for pedestrians, with regards to speed limits, traffic lights and crosswalks.”

Herscu says a big part of Rhino Legal's business is offering financial support to those who have been hurt in an accident to help them pay bills while their lawyer fights for a fair settlement.

Low-income accident victims can be faced with a perpetual downward spiral that’s difficult to get out of, Herscu says.

“If your income is now being taken away because your injuries prevent you from working, it just compounds the effect,” he says. “Then you have no wherewithal to get the rehabilitation you need to recover and get back to work.

“This makes it very difficult to get your finances in order,” Herscu adds.

He says people who live in Toronto’s lower-income neighbourhoods are also more likely to be commuting via public transit. According to CBC’s research, more than half of the residents in one low-income area commute to work every day without a car.

“Without that auto insurance coverage, there may be a financial gap in the event of a pedestrian accident,” Herscu says, noting that if the driver involved in the crash is uninsured, a victim may have to turn to the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund, which has a $200,000 cap.

If the at-fault driver is insured, for example, an accident victim might be able to avoid that route, but Herscu says there have been significant changes to non-catastrophic accident benefits coverage over the years.

Although the province announced plans earlier this year to restore the default benefit limit for catastrophic injuries to $2 million, more details are needed, he says.

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