TORONTO, ONTARIO – A third of Toronto’s police department’s 1,600 vehicles were in an accident in 2006; however, that was considered a good year because that number has been dropping since 2004. A review of more than 100 motor vehicle accident reports involving Toronto Police Service vehicles between July 2005 and July 2006, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, showed that officers were responsible for about half of all run-ins with the public, according to the Toronto Star newspaper.

The findings uncovered many causes leading to the accidents: reversing into parked cars (sometimes into each other); driving too fast for the weather; and tailgating. One police driver opened his door into traffic and walloped a cyclist. Another claims to have caught his clothing on the gearshift of his squad car, (located behind the steering wheel), which put it into drive, causing it to roll across two lanes of traffic before hitting a streetcar. Last June, an officer drove out of a parking lot and hit and injured a pedestrian on the sidewalk. He drove away, unaware that anyone had been struck.

The Toronto Police Service operates about 1,600 motor vehicles, including parking enforcement vehicles, unmarked cars and cruisers, vans, and motorcycles. Between 450 and 500 are marked patrol cars, and officers spend between seven and nine hours of every 10-hour shift behind the wheel.

He credits improved training with the drop in accidents — officers receive refresher courses about once every four years, and the rules regarding pursuits have been drastically tightened. Officers are discouraged from chasing stolen vehicles, or even drivers who appear to be impaired, for fear of sparking a chase that ends in serious injury or death.

The accidents reviewed by the Star included only those with damages over $5,000 or involving personal injury to any of the parties. Toronto police withheld an unspecified number of reports, citing reasons of confidentiality, labor relations, and legal concerns. This would have weeded out many of the more serious accidents, according to the Toronto Star.