A fascinating letter about how Ontario used to build roads that
were unsafe at any speed, and how outrage over the carnage led to
better regulation of car and road safety that has saved many
"Dear Dr. Saxe,
I was pleased to see the item in a recent edition of
the Toronto Star about the naming of the street in front of
the new Coroner's facility after your father, Morton
Shulman. What a fitting tribute.
I am a retired Toronto Police (TPS) officer and frankly,
Dr. Shulman was one of my hero's.
Thousands of people owe their lives to Dr. Shulman for the things
he caused to be changed. From hospital malpractice to road
design and car safety, the list seemed endless.
When I joined the TPS in the mid 1960′s, I chose traffic
work investigating collisions. We were forever encountering major
and fatal collisions on the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner
Expressway that were caused by poorly designed highways. I was
21 and with no training in highway engineering but I could see
the roads were unsafe. There was cement light poles that were
not protected by guard rail. There was no guard rail between the
north/south portions of the road.
If a car went out of control and ran off the road it either hit
a cement pole or a car going the other way with fatal results.
I can recall the grand opening of the elevated portion of the
Gardiner Expressway near downtown about 1965. The ribbon cutting
ceremony was in the early afternoon, the politicians drove
down the new road, it was opened to traffic and by about 6:30PM,
the first fatality occurred with a motorist crossing the
unprotected centre and colliding head on with an opposing car.
But along came Dr. Shulman and he took up the cause of the
unsafe roads in the Metro area as well as unsafe cars with no
mandatory seat belts or head restraints.
As chief coroner for Metro Toronto he ordered an inquest into
every fatal collision. He caused great embarrassment with the roads
dept. people who insisted the roads and expressways were
safe and it was the drivers who were to
blame. Finally, they got the message and started to
spend money to make our expressways safe. In 2013, a fatal
collision on the DVP or Gardiner is rare. The car
manufacturers were legislated into building safer cars.
In the 1960′s with a population of 1.5 million, we were
averaging 120 fatal collisions a year on
non-provincial roads in Metro Toronto. After Dr. Shulman
started his campaign for safer roads and cars the numbers started
to drop. By 2012, we have a population of 2.6 million and an
average of 60 fatal collisions a year. Still
I used to faithfully watch his program on City-TV. I still
have his book called The Coroner and I pull it out and review the
chapter on road safety as a reminder of just how bad things were in
I met him only once, we were setting up radar on Russell Hill
Rd. and he came out of his home on the way to work and stopped to
As I mentioned earlier, MORTY was one of my heros and I am so
pleased to see a road named after him.
Below is a photo from the mid 1960′s after the DVP was
extended from Eglinton to Lawrence.
How we built roads that were unsafe at any speed
NOTE: No center guard rail, cement light
standards unprotected by guard rail and the bridge has no
guard rail to stop cars from hitting it.
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