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Vulnerable road user injury trends following the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, Canada: an interrupted time series analysis


Background — The COVID-19 pandemic altered traffic patterns worldwide, potentially impacting pedestrian and bicyclists safety in urban areas. In Toronto, Canada, work from home policies, bicycle network expansion, and quiet streets were implemented to support walking and cycling. We examined pedestrian and bicyclist injury trends from 2012 to 2022, utilizing police-reported killed or severely injured (KSI), emergency department (ED) visits and hospitalization data.

Methods — We used an interrupted time series design, with injury counts aggregated quarterly. We fit a negative binomial regression using a Bayesian modeling approach to data prior to the pandemic that included a secular time trend, quarterly seasonal indicator variables, and autoregressive terms. The differences between observed and expected injury counts based on pre-pandemic trends with 95% credible intervals (CIs) were computed.

Results — There were 38% fewer pedestrian KSI (95%CI: 19%, 52%), 35% fewer ED visits (95%CI: 28%, 42%), and 19% fewer hospitalizations (95%CI: 2%, 32%) since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. A reduction of 35% (95%CI: 7%, 54%) in KSI bicyclist injuries was observed, but However, ED visits and hospitalizations from bicycle-motor vehicle collisions were compatible with pre-pandemic trends. In contrast, for bicycle injuries not involving motor vehicles, large increases were observed for both ED visits, 73% (95% CI: 49%, 103%) and for hospitalization 108% (95% CI: 38%, 208%).

Conclusion — New road safety interventions during the pandemic may have improved road safety for vulnerable road users with respect to collisions with motor vehicles; however, further investigation into the risk factors for bicycle injuries not involving motor vehicles is required.



Batomen B, Macpherson A, Lewis J, Howard A, Saunders NR, Richmond S, Harris MA, Saskin R, Zagorski B, Macarthur C, Fuselli P, Rothman L. J Safety Res. 2024; Feb 29 [Epub ahead of print].

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