Take a crash course in traffic injury prevention

Congestion is intensifying, but it is only part of the story about road safety. To better understand, we took a crash course in traffic injury prevention. Here’s what we got from Lesson 1: better cars, roads and driver behaviour all play a positive role.

Learn from history

MTO Ministry of Transportation OntarioThe Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) was created over one hundred years ago, in 1916. Road safety was not a top concern:

Cars were the new hot thing to have. There were no traffic lights and no driver’s licences. And there wasn’t a single provincial highway. MTO

In the 1930’s Ontario’s traffic enforcement was transferred to the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), and the broken white line on the centre of highways was introduced. This was the first road marking of its kind in Canada. Tracking and determining causes of, road accidents began in 1949.  Ten years later, a demerit point system for driving offenses was introduced as a ‘major innovation in road safety’.

You might say Henry Ford’s invention of the automobile was the dawn of road safety issues. Looking back over 100 years illustrates we now have figured out much better ways to prevent traffic injuries. Campaigns to achieve Vision Zero’ tell us there is still more to do.

Growing Road Safety Concerns

In the early 1960s, governments in developed countries began to take action on road and vehicle safety. With the encouragement of three insurance industry groups representing more than 500 auto insurers in the U.S., the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) was established as an independent science-based agency. Safety crusader, Ralph Nader challenged the American automobile industry to improve safety aspects of their products in the 1960s. Globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) became concerned with the issue of road traffic injuries as early as 1962, with a report on the nature and dynamics of the problem.

Road traffic injuries constitute a major public health and development crisis, and are predicted to increase if road safety is not addressed adequately — World Health Organization

2019 Acura RDX rated Top Safety Pick by IIHS

2019 Acura RDX received IIHS Top Safety Pick

This emphasis on vehicle safety was once resisted, but is embraced today. Automotive brands now compete to offer the best new safety features and technologies to their fleet. Consumers place a high value on safety and consider it when they purchase or lease a vehicle. Today, an IIHS safety rating evaluates two aspects:

  • crashworthiness — how well a vehicle protects its occupants in a crash
  • crash avoidance and mitigation — technology that can prevent a crash or lessen its severity

The improvements mostly make it safer for the driver and passengers. Some new sensor technologies like pedestrian detection help to mitigate driver error. None are fail proof when it comes to protecting pedestrians or cyclists.

Engineering Safer Roads

While cars and trucks have been made more safe, so have the roads they use. Civil engineers and city planners have learned how to design and build better. They attempt to balance safety and efficient traffic movement. Associations like the UK’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents point to learning from incidents to achieve accident reduction, and prevention. Their ‘naked streets’ and ‘shared space’ recommendations resonated with us:

Low Cost Remedial Engineering Measures range from improvements to road signs and markings, road surface improvements, applying naked streets principles to street clutter, junction re-design, traffic calming schemes, 20-mph limits and zones, improved walking or cycling facilities to major road improvement schemes or shared space schemes.–Royal Society fro the Prevention of Accidents

Driver Training

Young Drivers of CanadaNo matter how well built the vehicle or the road, humans are at the wheel—at least until driverless cars become the norm. Humans are, well, human. They make mistakes. Mistakes are preventable, or at least can be reduced with training.

Insurance companies acknowledge the value of driver education programs with preferred rates. Training over 1 million drivers since 1970 is Woodbridge, Ontario-based Young Drivers of Canada.  Influencing in the adoption of daytime running lights back in 1979, they also participated in the development of the province’s Graduated Licensing system in 1994. Young Drivers says all drivers make mistakes and develop bad habits. Five things they note all drivers can improve are: keep out of others’ blind spots, create an escape route, turn positioning, point of no return (at an intersection) and zipper merging.

This first lesson in our crash course has taught us about three significant improvements contributing to road safety:

  1. Design and engineering of safer cars
  2. Improved roads and signage
  3. Training better drivers

Join us

These facts of history convince us even more that prevention is the best solution. Follow along our next crash course  in road safety. Join in to learn how we can all do our part to keep the most vulnerable road users safe. We encourage schools, safety committees, companies and ordinary folks — whether walkers, riders or drivers– take part to make this preventable problem stop.

Be the first to learn about our new “Be Alert” road safety program. Subscribe to follow this journey. Learn more about how we could develop a customized program for you, drop us a note.


avoid the city congestion penalty

Congestion penalty costs cities when cars are stuck in trafficCitizens living in thriving cities are paying a heavy congestion penalty. Traffic could be viewed as a positive symptom of economic activity. Yet traffic hassles, construction, detours and general increase in street activity makes it harder and slower to get around town.

We all suffer from too much of a good thing.

Congestion penalties are measured and compared city by city: commute times, pollution, noise, traffic collisions. These add up to lost productivity which dents a city’s global competitiveness and lowers the quality of life for its citizens.

A report by global consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, highlights a new phenomenon causing urban traffic to get worse: e-commerce delivery vehicles.

Commercial vehicles and online deliveries make city traffic worse and carry significant economic costs that demand creative solutions. Congestion costs can be surprisingly high. These “externalities”—in economic parlance—represent as much as 2 to 4 percent of city GDP — McKinsey & Company, Quarterly, May 2018.

Ways and Waze around it
Of Waze is a GPS-enabled app by Google helps drivers get around towncourse that is why drivers are looking for a short cut. The last stanza in Robert Frost’s famous poem The Road Not Taken makes it a virtue to ‘take the one less traveled’. It’s a roadmap for life and a license to go off the beaten path.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. – Robert Frost

Mostly, though, the time starved nature of our daily grind explains why drivers  and delivery trucks deek off on a side road. It might also excuse rule-bending behaviour like double parking or cutting through parking lots. Anything to get to work, pick up the kids and get where you are going. With GPS-equipped smartphones and vehicles, drivers are empowered with real-time assistance from apps to ‘beat’ traffic on every journey.

Google’s highly popular Waze app has about 40 million users worldwide. It’s brilliant as a congestion penalty buster, making it easy for a driver to re-route enroute. Waze uses GPS navigation software to provide turn-by-turn navigation information combined with user-submitted travel times and route details.

Don’t enable bad behavior
Technology clearly can help battle traffic. That is why last year the City of Toronto partnered with Waze to share real-time traffic data. But there’s good and bad with the use of these apps. Saving time motivates drivers to regularly take smaller streets. That is exactly where kids play, bike or walk to school. Outsmarting traffic can lead to abuse: failing to stop, ignoring posted speed, pedestrian crossings or turning signs. Police enforcement cannot be spread city-wide. Apps should not enable bad behaviour.

Civil society relies on the goodwill and good behaviour of all who share the city. The strain of congestion is having a devastating impact on the most vulnerable road users: pedestrians and cyclists. Traffic and collisions have now migrated off arterial roads into residential areas. Residents have taken to posting lawn signs pleading for motorists to “SLOW DOWN”.

Ultimately though, we wondered if these very helpful traffic apps do the opposite of what many cities are trying to do: get more people out of their cars, walk, cycle and use mass transit.

Ways of Curtailing Commercial Vehicles

McKinsey report notes how commercial deliveries can adapt their ways to avoid contributing to a city’s congestion penalty.

Logistics staging areas outside city centers (urban consolidation centers), load pooling, and parcel lockers have proved successful in reducing miles driven by commercial vehicles and the number of deliveries, as well as costs. Allowing night deliveries reduces congestion during peak hours and lowers vehicle-related emissions. These practices, plus the use of electric vehicles and autonomous ground vehicles, show the greatest potential, in both environmental and economic terms. In the longer term, droids, drones, and individualized delivery could also make a difference.

We are inspired by these do-able delivery solutions and the meaning behind Robert Frost’s poem–choice is inevitable. It will help everyone see the value in easing the congestion penalty.

Join us
We will continue to look at how we can all do our part to keep the most vulnerable road users safe. You can help. Together we want to reach “Zero is the Goal”

We encourage schools, safety committees, companies and ordinary folks — whether walkers, riders or drivers– take part to make this preventable problem stop. Subscribe to follow this journey. If you wish to learn more about identity or insignia products, or how we could develop a customized ‘Zero is the Goal’ program for you, drop us a note.

Road guide lines

Zebra stripes are a cost effective pavement intervention but do they work to protect pedestrians? Painted pavement has been used for years to help motorists see what’s up ahead. Road guide lines help them stay in their lane. See where the center and shoulder are. Know where to stop, or turn.

Zebra stripes are extra wide road guide lines painted at intersections or mid-block. They universally send a signal to drivers to be alert, slow down and stop for pedestrians-or the occasional zebra.

For people on foot, zebra stripes mark where best to cross a street.

Its not clear who came up with the idea to paint roads in this way. Seems like road guide lines arrived with the boom in private car ownership in the early 1950’s. A scientist in the UK tried various colours: yellow, blue, but then settled on white as having the best visibility against dark asphalt.

Famous Four crossing

The Beatles, Abbey Road album cover

The most famous zebra crossing in world is probably the one in north west London. In 1969, four guys named John, Ringo, Paul and George walked single file, across a zebra crossing on Abbey Road. It became the cover of The Beatles 11th album. Immediately successful, it reached #1  in the UK and US. Alas, it was close to the end of the road for the Fab Four– they disbanded a few months after the album’s release.

Those stripes still draw music pilgrimages and copy cats. They have been moved a bit from the original spot and repaved a few times. Incredibly these particular zebra stripes were given ‘Grade II’ heritage status – normally only buildings would qualify.

Pretty impressive for painted road guide lines.

Zebra stripes protect ordinary pedestrians every day and night. They don’t require staffing (other than to paint them in the first place). Wet or dry, they are visible because of the special reflective paint used, except maybe on heavily snow-covered roads. Relatively inexpensive, zebra stripes are a widely used basic road safety measure.

Pelican crossing is not what you think when it comes to road guide linesPanda, Pelican, Toucan and Pegasus Crossings
Some other animals have been enlisted to help with pedestrian safety too. Pandas, pelicans and puffins, oh my! No, it’s not what you’re thinking –  roads are already zoo-y. They are the names of some techniques traffic engineers use to keep pedestrians separated and safe from vehicular traffic.

Pelican Crossing: Short for “pedestrian light controlled crossing“, (or pelicon) it morphed into ‘pelican crossing’. It has nothing to do with a real pelican. The same year as the Abbey Road album, the pelican crossing concept originated in the UK. A pair of standard traffic lights face oncoming traffic, while two illuminated pictograms face the pedestrian from across the road. A push button activates the traffic lights and signals to the pedestrian when it’s safe to “Walk”. The pelican crossing replaced a panda crossing experiment, which was unsuccessful. We’re not sure why.

Here are a few more road safety tools named after animals:

A Toucan Crossing signal

Puffin Crossing: like a pelican crossing, but lights are on the same side as the pedestrian. Due to less visibility when the pedestrian is in the intersection, it’s been discontinued.
Toucan Crossing: a crossing for pedestrians and bicycles; since ‘two-can’ cross, it became toucan; used in California and the UK. Cyclists can ride across.
Pegasus Crossing: a crossing for pedestrians, bicycles and horse riders as well; named after the mythical winged horse and used in the UK and Peru; may be useful during the Calgary Stampede?
Hawk Beacon: a standard signal used with zebra crossings, when a pedestrian pushes a button to cross, it illuminates to stop traffic, but goes dark unless activated

Upon reflection
Zebra stripes are a simple idea. They used to work pretty well. Except after a while, they fade, winter aggregates, snow plows take their toll. After oil-based paints were banned in 2012, the new ones didn’t work as well. Last year British Columbia tested a new type of paint on highways which undergo daily, rigorous maintenance. The paint is applied thicker, and glass bead can be added to the road guide lines to improve reflectivity. Over $1 million was spent applying the paint and glass bead on busy BC highways.

Our ministry’s first priority is to ensure that our highways and roads are as safe as possible — Todd Stone then BC Minister of Transportation told the CBC. (April 2017)

Problem is, over time, all these animal interventions become less effective. Even more so in urban centres, which are getting more congested with all forms of transportation. Humans cheat, cut corners, don’t push the button to cross, cyclists or drivers don’t see or obey the signals. Everyone is in a hurry. Increasingly, zebra crossings do not work to slow vehicles down and give priority to pedestrians, leading to unsafe behaviour.

Traffic engineers continue to come up with new ways improve safety in vulnerable crossing zones: LED lit school zone signs, speed reading signs and speed bumps. Combined with lower speed limits, crossing guards and traffic enforcement blitzes, they have been putting significant effort towards the Vision Zero goal.

And yet Vision Zero won’t work unless we change behavior of everyone using the road.

Come Together, We Can Be Heroes
Come Together was the first track on Abbey Road. It topped the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart, and was one of The Beatles top 10 tunes. Many artists have done cover versions including Ike & Tina Turner and Michael Jackson. We think our Zero Hero campaign soundtrack should include Come Together by Gary Clark Jr  and Junkie XL from the 2017 superhero Justice League movie. David Bowie’s Heroes covered by Gang of Youths and Leonard Cohen’s Everybody Knows covered by Sigrid also from the movie’s soundtrack would be great too.

Everybody knows, let’s all come together, we can be (zero) heroes…and solve this.

Join us
There is more to be done to make it to zero. Join us as we explore and participate in figuring out what else we can do to help make roads safer.  Above all we think it will require more awareness and and shift in attitudes about safety.

We want to encourage as many schools, safety committees, companies and ordinary folks — whether walkers, riders or drivers– to do their part to make this preventable problem stop. Subscribe to follow this journey. If you wish to learn more about identity or insignia products, or how we could develop a customized ‘Zero Hero’ program for you, drop us a note.

Failing grade on road safety

Kids should give adults a failing grade on road safety

We should all get an “F” for failing grade on road safety. So far this year the goal of Vision Zero has fallen far short.

Good news was pointed out by Andre Picard, Globe & Mail health columnist. He used the same statistics we wrote about in our Zero Hero post in March:

The long term trend of motor-vehicle fatalities in Canada is dropping overall– down almost 50 per cent in the past two decades –  Andre Picard, April 9, 2018

Writing about the horrific bus crash in Humbolt, Saskatchewan, he pointed out some of the positive reasons why those stats are improving – like seat belts and air bags and crash-resistant cars.

Impact of building better cars
2018 Volvo XC60 gets top IIHS safety rating Auto manufacturers get a B, since they took quite a while to make safety a priority over speed and style. Nowadays, the array of sophisticated mandatory and optional safety features on vehicles is extensive and in high demand from car buyers.

The auto industry has turned a perceived threat of extra costs consumers don’t really want, into desirable features expected by most car buyers.

MotorTrend writes the 2018 Volvo XC60 as the top-rated vehicle for safety from the IIHS. The Volvo brand is synonymous with safety. Why do we still have so many crashes? Picard points to the way we perceive ‘accidents’ as inevitable, not preventable may have something to do with it.

We have not so much made roads safer as we have made vehicles and their occupants better able to withstand crashes that we deem inevitable.

TheEating, adjusting the radio, talking to passengers are top distractions for drivers and get failing grade on road safetyy are not inevitable. Each of the three main causes of motor-vehicle crashes: impairment with alcohol and drugs, speeding and distracted driving are all preventable. Distracted driving in particular is now the #1 risk on Canadian roads.

Distracted drivers get a failing grade on road safety, for contributing to 8 in 10 collisions.

Road psychology
We make no claim to have expertise or insight into the thinking of drivers. What Picard highlights, and statistics back up, is that driver decisions are a key factor in crashes.

Giving vehicle occupants a false sense of security, we wondered if these motor vehicle design improvements may have caused more pedestrian and cyclist injuries too? Cyclists have little more than paint on the road and a helmet. Pedestrians, even less.

It seems counter-intuitive, but it may explain the psychology and behavior of drivers. The proportion of incidents involving those more vulnerable on the road has gone up. Looking at it another way, safety developments are one-sided in favour of vehicles. That is why municipalities have tried to intervene with various ways of engineering roads to reduce the risk of vehicle-pedestrian or vehicle-cyclist collisions. (more on those efforts in our next post)

Driven to distraction
So we’re going to throw some more numbers at you. (We will try not to make this a habit)

mobile phones a big cause of increased distracted driving a failing grade on road safety


That equals 84.6 phones for every 100 people.  This is from a 2017 report by the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA). We don’t know how many are in use while driving, but the reported crash causes speak for themselves.

94 per cent of crashes are attributable to human error or bad choices

Distracted driving is now more lethal than impaired driving. Distracted drivers get a failing grade for road safety.  It is preventable by a change in behavior behind the wheel. Put the phone down, turn it off, or put it in the trunk if you cannot resist glancing at it. That split second distraction could cost a life – yours, or those who just happen to be around you at that moment. We encourage drivers to change their attitude to get an A+ in road safety.

The lesson: no matter how well built the car, it cannot stop drivers from making an error in judgement.

Let’s learn the lesson from Humbolt Broncos tragedy
As the tragedy of Humbolt Broncos fades from headlines, single injuries and deaths by motor vehicle keep happening one by one. They are not always given media attention. Mr. Picard’s plain spoken truth keeps us motivated to continue working on our own ‘Zero Hero’ project to find small things which can grab attention, change bad behaviour, and make it stop.

We have to recognize that human-driven vehicles are a significant public-health risk, one that needs to be managed and, ultimately, eliminated. Too many lives, young lives, are being lost. The carnage of the car age has gone on far too long.

Let’s work harder in memory of those young men who’s lives were lost or changed forever. We can all take part in encouraging better behaviour by anyone using our roads. Help reverse the failing grade on road safety.

Join us

There is more to be done to make it to zero. Join us as we explore and participate in figuring out what else we can do to help make roads safer.  Above all we think it will require more awareness and and shift in attitudes about safety.

We want to encourage as many schools, safety committees, companies and ordinary folks — whether walkers, riders or drivers– to do their part to make this preventable problem stop. Subscribe to follow this journey. If you wish to learn more about identity or insignia products, or how we could develop a customized ‘Zero Hero’ program for you, drop us a note.

Guardians of pedestrian crossings

Crossing Guard guides children at a pedestrian crossing

Courtesy Ottawa Citizen

Every day we see them perform acts of intervention. At pedestrian crossings in school zones, they wave signs, blow whistles, or grab drivers attention with intense eye contact.

They have a lot of responsibility. Our kids lives are at stake. That’s why its understandable that some even have their own form of road rage.

There could be a super hero movie about them. Or a video game. Call it Guardians of the Crossing.

Extraordinary people making roads safer

Crossing guards are ordinary people, doing super things, morning, noon and night. Often in lousy weather. They are the most human aspect of safety in action at pedestrian crossings where young children walk to and from school.

Hired and trained by the local police, they are stationed at the intersections near schools. A crossing guard’s job is to ensure pedestrians make it across roads safely, and to assist in enforcing traffic laws.

Not all drivers and cyclists understand the law, and what they are supposed to do at an intersection manned by a crossing guard. Failure to do so can result in fines and 3 demerit points. So for the record, in Ontario:

Drivers – including cyclists – must stop and yield the whole roadway at pedestrian crossovers, school crossings and other locations where there is a crossing guard — Ministry of Transportation, Ontario, “Making Ontario Roads Safer Act” 2016

The laws of other provinces vary somewhat, but most require vehicles to stop at marked pedestrian crossings. Despite being the law, drivers don’t always stop.

A national safety army gets our kids to school

Guardians of the Crossing patrol pedestrian crossings in school zones

Courtesy Toronto Police Service

That is why nearly every community continues to employ crossing guards in school zones. There are about 600 in Toronto, over 150 in Ottawa, 1,500 – 2,000 in Quebec, and we estimate over ten thousand across Canada.

Through sleet and snow, searing heat, every school day they are there for hours. For that, they are thanked by parents, teachers and even some polite kids.

Impatient drivers may not always appreciate being delayed. We know distracted driving is now the #1 cause of collisions. We should all recognize crossing guards play a key role to ensure drivers see and stop at the pedestrian crossing, respect traffic laws, and keep our kids safe while they are walking to school.

Awarding everyday heroes

Unlike painted pavement, signs, or speed meters, crossing guards often contribute much more than traffic safety in their neighbourhood. They are teachers, coaches, and familiar faces regarded as pillars of their communities. They guard their designated intersection with fierce pride, protective of their flock of pedestrians. Give out smiles, words of encouragement, and generally keep an eye on things.

Parachute and FedEx team up on Canada's Favourite Crossing Guard Contest each year Each year Parachute Canada with the help of FedEx accepts nominations for Canada’s Favourite Crossing Guard. Meet Dave Innis, of St. John’s, NF, one of the 2017 winners.

The jury selects three nominations. They each receive $500, and the same amount for their school. They most likely get applause from the community and a cake. They deserve the bragging rights. The 2018 nominations for the contest are in and three winners will be selected and announced soon.

Its great to highlight those who go above and beyond. We think each and every crossing guard deserves to be celebrated. We all can appreciate how they make crossing the street safer, and the countless injuries they no doubt prevent.

Unfortunately, they are not there all the time. Despite the aid of crossing guards, we know from the statistics, pedestrians injuries are still happening. Zero is the goal, yet we are still a long way off.

Join us

There is more to be done to make it to zero. Join us as we explore and participate in figuring out what else we can do to help make pedestrian crossings safer.  Zebra stripes, crosswalk lights and metered speed signs– we are looking at other human and artificial tools effective measures to improve pedestrian safety.

Above all we think it will require more awareness and and shift in attitudes about safety.

We want to encourage as many schools, safety committees, companies and ordinary folks — whether walkers, riders or drivers– to do their part to make this preventable problem stop. Subscribe to follow this journey , or contact us to learn more about Trimtag’s Be Seen Visibility Project developments.

Zero is the Goal

Zero is th goal stop pedestrian incidents from happeningOne is too many. Zero is the goal. We are talking about lives injured or lost, especially when its preventable.

Our vision is to help stop it from happening

In the news of late are some awful traffic incidents where pedestrians have been struck. That’s devastating news no one wants to hear.


This is, what drove our decision to try and prevent this from happening with our new Be Seen Visibility Project. The aim is to help shed light, both literally and figuratively, on the issue.

We’re not taking sides in this often heated debate between modes of transportation. In fact, we think co-operation, mutual respect and understanding will go a long way to preventing the worst from happening. Zero is the goal we think all parties can agree upon. And, to reach that goal of zero, everyone, no matter what mode of transportation used, has to take part in getting there.

Let’s start with facts to understand the current situation:
We don’t usually focus on math, but in this case, its important to consider some relevant and reliable numbers, courtesy of the national Census and Transport Canada. These help us understand what is going on. There is good news and bad:

That means there is just slightly under 1 vehicle per person in the country. If you consider there are about 25 million licensed drivers, that is more than 1 vehicle for each driver.

Collision Course:
We are moving in the right direction. From 1996 to 2015 Transport Canada reports the good news: the total number of reported road collisions, fatalities and personal injuries has been going down. The pink line shows this positive trend in the chart below.

Pedestrians are the not so good news

If zero is the goal, we are still a long way off. The number of incidents involving pedestrians has remained about the same since 2011. In the latest year reported by Transport Canada, 15.2% of fatalities and 14.3% of serious injury from all reported road collisions in Canada were pedestrians.

In other words, pedestrians are an increasing proportion of those injured or killed on our roads. Add to that, about 2.5% of fatalities and 4.7% of serious injuries from collisions were sustained by cyclists in 2015.

Most of this, is preventable.

Will you join us and be a “Zero Hero”?

We’re working on small solutions with big results. Everyone can participate in the Trimtag Be Seen Visibility Project: drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, schools, city planners, companies, etc.

We need your help get these numbers to zero. Are you ready to play a part in prevention? Join us to be first to hear more about our plans.

Zip, zilch, nil, nada, none … in this case we are setting the bar low. Zero is the goal!

Be Street Seen Visibility Project Launched

Crisis spurs Trimtag to launch “Be Street Seen Visibility Project”
Be seen. Make a difference. Stop accidents from happening. That is the reasoning behind our new Be Street Seen Visibility Project.

An ounce of prevention

Be Seen inspired by Benjamin Franklin's famous piece of advice "An ounce of prevention"

Benjamin Franklin in London, 1767, wearing a blue suit with elaborate gold braid and buttons. Portrait by David Martin, displayed in the White House

Last year we enjoyed sharing some great stories and helping Canada 150 celebrations. Its time now to turn our energy to a new community project. Our goal? Add our expertise to help a good cause.

Inspiration for the project came to us from statesman, inventor, former firefighter and founding father of the United States, Benjamin Franklin:

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. — Benjamin Franklin, Pennsylvania Gazette, 1735

Franklin famously wrote an article in the Pennsylvania Gazette to advise people on how to minimize the risk of fire in their home. He wrote as an “old citizen” to encourage people to take steps prevent fires from hot coal embers. An enlightened American leader, the folksy advisor was also a foreign diplomat and one-time firefighter. Among his many contributions to the founding of America, Franklin is credited with establishing the first volunteer firefighting crew in Philadelphia.

Prevention is  our worthy cause
So many charitable organizations across Canada do great things and need support. We decided our new project had to do three things:

  1. Make a difference in everyday lives of Canadians
  2. Use our expertise to do good
  3. Help advance the cause by making it more visible

We think preventing catastrophe in the first place fits with our company’s Insignia work with first responders – EMS, fire and police. We are inspired to work with organizations like Me to We and admire how well they communicate about causes. To reach the most people, it makes sense for us to be active where it matters to Canadians: close to home.

Goals of the Be Street Seen Visibility Project

Public Health Agency of Canada report spurs Trimtag Be Street Seen Visibility Project

Make a difference in everyday lives

Crossing the street is something everyone does yet it is increasingly dangerous. There is evidence our most vulnerable in society are most at risk: kids and elderly in particular. Recent reports in the news, and grim statistics back this up:

From 1990 – 2009,  there were 18,542 injuries to cyclists and pedestrians injured in a collision with a motor vehicle… most frequent was being struck while crossing a street or intersection. — Public Health Agency of Canada, Injury in Review, 2012.

The scope, cost and impact of injuries are massive yet underfunded in relation to their impact. Injuries are the leading cause of death for Canadians aged 1-44 and affect just as many individuals and their families, or more, than some of our deadliest diseases. Most “accidents” are not accidents at all, but are predictable and preventable events. –Parachute Canada, 2016 report

Key words for us: kids, predictable and preventable – all sunk in. Our Be Street Seen Visibility Project could help the things most dear to us. Next, we thought about how we can apply our expertise to help reduce incidents.

Trimtag Be Street Seen Project aimed at prevention and inspired by youth leaders like Me To WeApply our identification expertise
Know-how to create elements to identify organizations and their people is one of our strengths. Large and small, public, private or not-for-profit: we make items like skills achievement badges for youth organizations, uniform patches for municipal agencies, and all sorts of creative custom apparel trims or brand identity items for businesses.

Every project we do commands our attention to the smallest detail. Delivering the high-quality and high visibility products our customers ask for is what we do every day. That is the identification expertise we bring to the table.

Technical advances are key

We know how to design and produce high-visibility items. We source the latest in new reflective materials, inks and finishes. That is how our police patch in daytime is clearly visible from a distance. At night, the same patch becomes illuminated, even with only a small amount of light from streetlight or car headlights.

Adding such technical advances can make a product literally glow. We know how to create simple items with reflective technology can go a long way to prevent accidents from happening. Our Be Street Seen Project can be like a flashing beam of light switched on at the right moment.

Make some noise
Mass appeal helps communicate messages and build awareness. Beyond literal visibility of our Be Street Seen Project items, we know they can also act as loudspeakers to amplify awareness.

To create mass appeal, we know items have to be small, easy to distribute, easy to apply in a variety of ways. They must be affordable. Design is key. There’s no point in making things that never get out of a drawer. If we create items which people like and want to ‘be seen’ in – they are more likely to be actually worn. The more wearable, the more they will be seen by more people. And being seen is key for any cause to make some noise.

Ultimately our Be Seen Visibility Project will succeed if we can work with all types of organizations across Canada and make everyone more visible. It all adds up:

partners + technology + design + likes + wear = Be Street Seen

That is how Trimtag did the math. We realized our small company is perfectly positioned to make little things which get noticed and do a lot of good preventing bad stuff from happening.

Inspired to make a difference
So that is the story of how Trimtag came to create our own Be Street Seen Visibility Project. We hope to see results happen in the communities where we live. Our vision is to work with other organizations and make a difference right across the country.

It is even better, louder, more effective when we work together. We invite you to join us.

Get started

Our new exclusive Be Street Seen Visibility Project collection will be ready soon. Be the first to receive information and samples, sign up for our newsletter.

Or, if you have your own project and need a quote on a custom design, get in touch with our sales team.

New national anthem

In all of us command a new national anthem

Celebrating feats of athleticism is only one part of the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, Korea. Country and sponsor branding is on full display on every uniform, ad and venue. National anthems will be played while flags are raised and medals are handed out

Canada has just scored one for inclusivity. In anthems. A small change to the words of Canada’s national anthem has just become law. Passed by both of Canada’s Houses of Parliament, Bill C-210 received Royal assent this month.

Tessa Virtue Scot Moir receive gold medals and sing the national anthem at the Olympics

Gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, of Canada, celebrate at the medals ceremony at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, Korea, Feb. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Canada’s Olympians sang the new version at the flag raising ceremony at the welcoming Canada House in the Olympic Village. Virtue and Moir gave it a memorable sparkle in at the ceremony accepting their Olympic gold medals.

Proposed by the late MP, Mauril Bélanger, the bill altered one of the opening lines of the English version of O Canada to ensure gender parity. The third line “In all thy sons command” becomes “In all of us command”.

It has been a marathon to make this small but significant change. Finally Canada’s national anthem is contemporary, inclusive and reflective of both history and today.

Commanded for a different time and place

O Canada was not without controversy. It was a long time coming, in two official languages. Like the country, it has  distinct beginnings and close ties to history, language and culture. Commissioned by the Lieutenant-Governor of Quebec, judge Adolphe-Basile Routhier wrote the French lyrics. Composer Calyx Lavallée created the music.

O Canada was first performed for 500 guests at a banquet for the National Congress of French Canadians on June 24, 1880. June 24 continues to be celebrated today in la belle province as Saint Jean Baptiste Day, or la Fête Nationale du Québec.

Uniforms and national anthems rooted in Canada's history at the Plains of Abraham

Uniforms in the Plains of Abraham Museum

Appropriately for a country which expects to win Olympic  gold on the ice, the venue for the banquet was the Pavillion des patineurs – a skating rink on the Grande Allée in Quebec City. The same rink where local boy, Joe Malone lead the Quebec Bulldogs in back to back Stanley Cup wins in 1911-1912 and 1912-1913. The building was destroyed by fire in 1918. It is now the main entrance to Battlefields Park otherwise known as the Plains of Abraham — a seminal place in Canada’s history.

This anthem has a masterful character and when sung by a great number of voices creates a most impressive effect — Review of the performance in Le Canadien on June 30, 1880.

Changing Tunes

Duke of Cornwall and York, later King George V heard O Canada in Toronto in1901

King George V, by Sir Luke Fildes, 1911

In 1901, school children in Toronto sang an English version for the visit of the Duke of Cornwall and York, the future King George V. Others crafted English versions of O Canada for competitions and ceremonies. The popular patriotic tunes of those days were “God Save the King” and the “Maple Leaf Forever”.

The English version of O Canada used today was written in 1908 by Montrealer, Robert Stanley Weir to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the founding of Quebec City.

While the French lyrics and score have remained the same, Weir’s version of O Canada has undergone several rewrites. The first version contained the awkward phrase, “True patriot love thou dost in us command”. It was changed in 1913 to “True patriot love in all thy sons command”. This was when the women’s suffrage movement was at its most controversial. So while O Canada was adopted in French as the de facto national anthem, in English it was “God Save the King”.

In 1927, for the Diamond Jubilee of Confederation, Weir’s O Canada lyrics were published by the federal government. This helped it become sung in schools and theatres.

By 1967 the country’s sesquicentennial year, singing O Canada was a morning ritual for schoolchildren in both official languages. Despite numerous attempts by parliament, it still failed to reach status as the country’s national anthem. It was not until 1980 when the National Anthem Act was passed.

O Canada National Anthem Act scoreSince then, no less than a dozen times bills were introduced but failed to change the English lyrics.

Times they are a changing
In a illustration of how Canada’s parliamentary democracy works, the latest bill was tabled in May, 2016 by Mr. Bélanger as a private member’s bill, not by a political party. The ailing Hon. Belanger made it back into the House of Commons in June 2016 for the sole purpose to move the bill to a vote. Bill C-210 passed in the House by a margin of 225 to 74, just a few weeks before Mr. Bélanger’s death.

It took a further 18 months of debate to finally pass third reading in the Senate in January 2018. Some members opposed the idea of changing the lyrics, saying the process was not democratic, and others felt “some things just shouldn’t change”.

The words “In all of us command” is another part of Canada’s history, signalling to the world a progressive and inclusive brand as a country. It also fits with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in  Canada’s Constitution Act of 1982 which guaranteed individual rights and freedom from discrimination.

Now the national anthem itself is a reflection of the equality of all people who call themselves Canadian.

Help in singing from the same song sheet
After more than 100 years, the tune is familiar to the people as the maple leaf flag. But sometimes the words fail. With such a long and changing history, O Canada is sung, but often mumbled or hummed in spots. Canadians of all genders, languages, backgrounds can be forgiven for sometimes tripping on the words in one or more of the official languages.

Now that the version in both official languages is set, voices can sing clearly. Here for reference at your next day of school, hockey game…or hopefully podium ceremony, the new official bilingual words to the new Canadian national anthem, O Canada:

English version (2018)

O Canada! Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all of us command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide, O Canada,
We stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

French version:

O Canada! Terre de nos aïeux,

Ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux!

Car ton bras sait porter l’épée,
Il sait porter la croix!

Ton histoire est une épopée

Des plus brillants exploits.

Et ta valeur, de foi trempée,

Protègera nos foyers et nos droits.

Protègera nos foyers et nos droits.

Bilingual version (2018):

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all of us command.
Car ton bras sait porter l’épée,
Il sait porter la croix!
Ton histoire est une épopée
Des plus brillants exploits.
God keep our land glorious and free!

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

We are all in for SickKids VS

SickKids VS : All In campaign

Watch SickKids VS: All In video

It’s a fight. Every single day. For patients, family and staff. And, they need your help. That is the bold message in the extraordinary SickKids VS campaign.

Battling against childhood illness happens on many levels, every day at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

All In for rebuilding SickKids
Fundraising by SickKids Foundation is critical to sustaining what the hospital does. It also urgently needs $1.3 billion to rebuild the hospital on University Avenue.

Launched this fall, “All In” is a new part of the SickKids VS campaign which enlisted an army of 200 kids —actual patient siblings and ambassadors— racing to help. They gather construction materials to the famous tune from the musical, Oliver, “I’d do anything for you”. Along the way, some fall, are injured, they help each other and eventually end up in front of patients. Symbolically one brick is placed in front of the crowd.

You can’t practice 21st century medicine in a 1949 building— Ted Garrard, SickKids Foundation CEO, told CBC Radio’s Here and Now.

SickKids newest building is 25 years old, floors are not able to handle the weight of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines and ceilings are too low to accommodate robotic technology. The neonatal intensive care unit needs private spaces for families, children in the bone marrow transplant isolation unit don’t have rooms to play when some of their stays last for six months or a year.

It is the largest fundraising campaign in Canadian health care history. Construction will take 10 years and will happen in phases. What SickKids does every day will continue without interruption.

SickKids VS the greatest challenges in child health
“All In” is a continuation of the SickKids VS campaign. Showing the fight as real and fierce began in 2016. Filmed with medical staff, patients and their families who all agreed to take part. The campaign is meant to show how fierce they are, and to jolt the viewer into taking action.

SickKids battles against childhood illness by attracting the best medical minds in the world to do research. They have found cures for some of the most challenging and rare childhood illnesses. Combined with patient care and education, SickKids is recognized as a world-leading institution where advancements in science and technology present an unprecedented opportunity to change lives of children and their families.

SickKids needs a modern hospital facility to continue the fight. Lives depend on SickKids. Join the fight. We did.

And if that is not reason enough, SickKids tugs at heartstrings even more during the holidays with “Missing Home”.

SickKids: Missing Home

Introducing the Poppy Project

After a year of celebrating Canada’s 150, Trimtag is embarking on a new campaign we call: The Poppy Project. Every November we are proud to see people wearing a red poppy on their lapel. It means we remember. Our Poppy Project is inspired by these modern ways we can remember and express and support veterans. We will tell you more in the months to come, but first, lest we forget:

Veterans Affairs launched 11 Days campaign #CanadaRemembers to ensure a lasting legacy

Veterans Affairs Canada 11 Day Campaign

Veterans Affairs launches 11 Days Campaign
This week, Veterans Affairs Canada launched a new campaign in the lead up to 2017 Remembrance Day.  Called the “11 Days” campaign, the public is encouraged to share how you remember on social media. They suggest photos of poppies, people, peace or monuments and cenotaphs with the hashtag: #CanadaRemembers.

Possibly the most impact in our busy lives: a moment of silence.


In Flanders Fields video inspired Trimtag's Poppy ProjectPoetic view from above
Poppies are also inextricably linked to the famous poem “In Flanders Fields” by Canadian soldier, John McCrae. Poppies are universally understood as a symbol for sacrifice and call for peace.

To launch their 2017 Poppy Appeal, The Royal British Legion installed lines of the ‘In Flanders Fields’ poem in iconic locations across the UK. Then they filmed them from above using a drone.

Watch the video, it is spectacular. Their mission?  Rethink Remembrance. We were inspired.

To keep memories from fading, the stories must connect to modern times. With 100th anniversaries of seminal WW1 events including Vimy  Hill 70, and Passchendaele, we noticed other ways the poppy has been harnessed in a modern way.

Where Are The Poppies Now
In 2014, 888,246 poppies – one for every British military fatality during the conflict – were created by artist Paul Cummins for the Blood Swept Lands And Seas Of Red art installation at the Tower of London. Huge crowds visited.

Where are the Poppies Now

Re-uniting the poppies digitally

After the installation, the poppies were sold to the public for £25 each, with profits going to military charities. This past September, a campaign called “Where Are the Poppies Now” was launched to trace and digitally re-unite them. The technology will ‘pin’ the poppies to a digital map.

Many who purchased the poppies have shared their stories as a tribute to servicemen and women in their own family.


Poppy Fields and the Future
Trimtag’s Poppy Project is inspired by both a recognition of the poppy and its past, as well as by the need to continue its powerful force for good into the future. We see the poppy spread as in nature, in a variety of colours and shapes, blooming in vast numbers, and not just on November 11.

The design of Trimtag Poppy Project limited edition Series 001, will be unveiled in early 2018. If you would like to be notified when it is released, please sign up to receive an email notification here.