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Ontario’s New Driving Laws Protect Vulnerable Pedestrians

Marked pedestrian crossings were used in Roman times on stone cobbled walkways, with large raised blocks of stones placed in the middle of a road for pedestrians to walk on. Of course, in the modern world, pedestrians face far greater traffic hazards than horse-drawn carriages.

Pedestrian crosswalks can be found throughout the modern world. In Canada, they are usually depicted by parallel horizontal markings on the pavement, often at intersections controlled by traffic signals or stop signs. In Europe and parts of Africa, crosswalks may be depicted by slanted “zebra” markings.

In 2012, the chief coroner for Ontario released a report entitled “Review of All Accidental Pedestrian Deaths in Ontario from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2010″. The report indicated that most pedestrian deaths occur in urban areas, on arterial roads, usually mid-block rather than at a controlled intersection, and predominantly between 2 pm and 10 pm daily when traffic volume is at its highest. The vast majority of victims were either over the age of 65 or were young children, and speed, light and driver distraction due to the use of electronic devices or substance use were often factors.

The report made numerous recommendations, including several pedestrian safety laws under the Highway Traffic Act. On June 2, 2015, Bill 31, the Transportation Statute Law Amendment Act (Making Ontario’s Roads Safer), 2015, received Royal Assent. The Bill included a number of legislative amendments to the Highway Traffic Act to improve road safety in Ontario, and to protect our most vulnerable citizens. The new laws came into effect on January 1, 2016.

As of January 1, 2016, drivers – motorists and cyclists — must now make a complete stop and yield the entire roadway at all pedestrian crossovers and at all school crossings where a crossing guard is displaying a school crossing sign. Drivers must wait until the pedestrian has completely crossed the road, as opposed to just clearing the space in front of their vehicle and proceeding forward once their lane of traffic is clear. Fines range from $150 to $600, and drivers also face a penalty of up to 3 demerit points for violations. Fines are doubled in community safety zones.

These rules do not apply to crosswalks at light-controlled intersections or intersections controlled by stop sign. Unlike a crosswalk, a pedestrian crossover can be placed mid-block on the roadway, and is identified by pavement markings, illuminated overhead lights/warning signs, and pedestrian buttons.

Bill 31 also implemented recommendations by the Ministry of Transportation and requests by municipalities to enable the use of pedestrian crossover devices for mid-block crossings. The enabling regulation can be found in O.Reg 402/15, “Pedestrian Crossover Signs”, under the Highway Traffic Act. Municipalities now have the option of installing mid-block pedestrian crossovers, in accordance with the standards set out in the new Regulation. Expect to see more of these types of crossings in the near future.

In addition, as of September 1, 2015, Ontario implemented new distracted driving laws, increasing the fines, demerit points and other penalties for drivers who use hand-held and other electronic communication devices while driving, and for those who open a car door in the path of a cyclist. Novice drivers face suspension of their drivers license for some of these violations, in addition to demerit points.

Hopefully, these changes will make our neighbourhoods safer, and will be met with a corresponding decrease in pedestrian-vehicular collisions.

Najma M. Rashid is a partner at Howard Yegendorf & Associates and its sister firm, BrazeauSeller. She practices in the areas of personal injury and insurance law. To learn more about Najma and her practice, please visit www.yegendorf.com, or www.brazeauseller.com. She can be reached at nrashid@yegendorf.com or 237-5000 ext 243.

Disclaimer and Cautionary Note

The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice or establish a lawyer-client relationship with the authors or BrazeauSeller.LLP. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained from a qualified lawyer.