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On The Road

Streetcar Safety Tips

Take a look at these tips for transit users and drivers to stay safe in and around streetcars.

by Team Onlia

In cities like Toronto, there’s no doubt that one of the most beloved urban symbols is the streetcar. But if you’ve ever ridden in one, you may have had some close calls with passing cars. Between 2007 and 2017, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) says its vehicles were involved in at least 29 crashes. Of these collisions, more than half involved streetcars.

Streetcars can be dangerous because they’re heavy and unable to stop quickly. Since they’re on tracks, they can’t swerve to avoid accidents, either.

But because public transit still remains one of the safest ways to get around, streetcar safety can be easily overlooked. So whether you’re a passenger, driver or cyclist, take a look at these tips for safely navigating in and around these popular vehicles. 

Entering a streetcar

Most streetcar tracks run along mixed-traffic roads. This means passengers are usually dealing with a combination of cars, cyclists and other pedestrians. Some roads have a dedicated median with raised curbs, which allows for more efficient service. But these special areas can still be unsafe.

Here are some things to keep in mind when hopping on the streetcar:

Wait on the sidewalk or raised median: Avoid the urge to step out onto the road, until the streetcar doors open to let you in. 

Look both ways: Always check both ways before stepping forward. Motorists and cyclists may not see you, and can catch you off guard if you’re not paying attention. 

Keep accessibility entrances free: Many newer streetcars are equipped with accessibility ramps. Unless you have a mobility issue, avoid using these designated entry points.

Standing inside the streetcar

Once you’re on the streetcar, you may not be lucky enough to get a seat. Sudden shifts can throw you off balance and can cause injuries. Always hold onto a safety pole to ground yourself, while keeping these other tips in mind: 

  • Stand behind the white line and stay clear of the doors

  • Make sure bags and parcels don’t become tripping hazards

  • Never stick your arms or head out the window

  • Keep children close so you don’t become separated

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Exiting a streetcar

Streetcar drivers are usually careful not to let passengers out if other vehicles are passing, but it’s still important to pay attention before stepping out onto the road:

  • Always look to your right to make sure cars and cyclists have stopped

  • As soon as you exit, make your way to the sidewalk quickly

  • If you’re travelling when it’s dark outside, wear reflective clothing so you’re easily visible to others

Streetcar safety for drivers

In many Canadian provinces, it’s the law for both drivers and cyclists to stop when streetcar doors are open. The Ontario Highway Traffic Act, for example, requires vehicles to stop at least two metres behind the doors. To catch offenders, Toronto’s Transit Commission is recommending security cameras. This footage would allow police to pursue traffic violations, but some critics have said it’s an invasion of privacy

In the meantime, motorists can do their part by:

  • Driving carefully near designated streetcar zones

  • Anticipate how to navigate a streetcar when they see one up ahead

  • Pass pedestrians at reasonable speeds, and be ready in case they make unexpected moves

Patience is key

Although warnings, penalties and other deterrents are helpful,  we can all make public transit safer by simply practising a bit of patience. Whether you’re a streetcar user or motorist, simply stop when you’re supposed to stop. Rushing around may save you a few seconds here and there, but the safety risks just aren’t worth it. It’s our responsibility to understand the laws, be alert to our surroundings, and protect each other on the roads. 

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