Going outside? Take ID!

Morning rush hour traffic snarled last Friday near my house as police investigated yet another person struck and killed by a car before sunrise. This time it was a woman in her 20s, the fourth pedestrian killed since the clocks went back an hour on November 1. Hours later, that’s still all police knew about her because she wasn’t carrying any ID.

Regrettably, she wasn’t alone. An informal Facebook poll shows that so many people walk, jog or cycle around the city without ID and most have never given much thought as to why they should carry it. But as we go into winter, what happens if you’re walking alone, slip on the ice and it renders you dazed or unconscious? Or what if you get hit by a car and black out? What if something similar happens to your children as they walk alone to or from school?

Though Toronto Police Service doesn’t keep statistics on the number of people officers encounter without ID, Sergeant Wendy Drummond told me that problems arise when someone is unable to communicate or is incoherent. In these instances, police will canvas the area for those who know the person or the family and, if necessary, search nearby vehicles for clues. They also examine the person for tattoos and other distinct markings and put that through the police database. If that fails they might take fingerprints, search missing persons reports or issue a media release for public assistance.

Still, even a conscious person can get flustered and forget their personal details.

So please, dear readers, make it a habit to carry ID whenever they leave home, be it walking the dog, heading to the corner store, strolling to a neighbour’s house or going for a run. Here are some tips on how to stay safe:

  • ID should include your name and an ICE (In Case of Emergency) phone number of someone who knows you well, ideally a relative
  • It can be as simple as your business card or writing your details on a piece of paper
  • Put it in a place that you would expect people to look for it, such as a pocket or pinned to the inside of a jacket
  • ID bracelets such as those from MedicAlert are ideal because medical personnel are trained to look for them
  • Add key phone numbers such as Mom or Home to your cellphone so emergency personnel can contact your loved ones quickly. If your phone is locked, have an ICE phone number displayed on the lock screen.


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