By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published September 13, 2012
I am continually appalled by the way some drivers automatically blame the victim when pedestrians are injured, even when the story in question is about a case that is clearly the fault of the driver!
This article is about a pedestrian "taking revenge" after narrowly avoiding injury when crossing at a crosswalk.
The article starts off with the claim, "Distracted pedestrians may be the cause of a large percentage of crosswalk accident statistics, but the reality is that it is still the driver's responsibility to keep their eyes on the road."
Just where is the evidence that it is distracted pedestrians (and not distracted or aggressive drivers) who are the cause of "a large percentage of crosswalk accident statistics"? What exactly is "a large percentage"? The majority?
The editor at the Star's Wheels column just seems to know this is true. In any case, pedestrians crossing with the light have the right of way in a crosswalk, and motorists must yield to them, not just 'keep their eyes on the road'.
Further, a motorist is supposed to be in full control of their vehicle at all times and avoid hitting pedestrians, no matter what they are doing and whether they have the right of way or not.
For information, in 2007 the City of Toronto actually did a study on pedestrian deaths and injuries [PDF] and did not find that pedestrian distraction is the cause of a large percentage of crosswalk accident statistics.
In fact, the majority - 57 percent - of pedestrians actually had the right of way at the intersection when they were hit. Regarding inattention, the report implies that driver inattention is the primary factor, at least at intersections:
Often, motorists and pedestrians are not paying full attention when using the road network. Such inattentive behaviour can be a contributing factor in many pedestrian/motor vehicle collisions. Such is the case of when the motorists need to perform turning movements (e.g. turning left at the intersection), drivers tend to pay more attention to the oncoming traffic rather than looking for pedestrians crossing in the crosswalk.
Interestingly, the report quotes the Highway Traffic Act definition of a pedestrian crossing:
Under Section 1 of the Highway Traffic Act, a crosswalk is defined as either "the extension of the lateral lines of the sidewalks on opposite sides of a roadway or a location at the intersection; or, is any portion of a roadway at the intersection or elsewhere distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by signs or by lines or other markings on the surface."
I wonder how many Ontarians, including police officers and traffic engineers, realize that every intersection is defined as a crosswalk, whether it is a controlled intersection or not?
In section 144(28) of the Highway Traffic Act, "every pedestrian who lawfully enters a roadway in order to cross may continue the crossing as quickly as reasonably possible despite a change in the indication he or she is facing and, for purposes of the crossing, has the right-of-way over vehicles."
In other words, any pedestrian who is lawfully crossing a roadway automatically has the right of way. This doesn't just apply to signalized intersections!
Signalized crosswalks for pedestrians are called crossovers, and in Hamilton the general attitude is that motorists only need to stop at a signal (red light or stop sign), which greatly limits the safety and convenience of pedestrians, especially children and seniors.
It is time to stop reflexively blaming the victim when pedestrians are injured or killed, and focus on how to design safer streets.
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