With autumn upon us and winter soon to follow, we’re faced with the sun setting sooner and rising later. These shorter days combined with poor weather means that pedestrians are at much greater risk.
And, to make things even more interesting at this time of year, we have Daylight Saving Time which takes effect Nov. 2nd. While some studies have shown it ‘could lead to few road accidents and injuries by supplying more daylight’ other studies claim it has a negative impact on peoples’ health.
According to ICBC, about 76% more pedestrians are injured in crashes between November to January every year with an average of 58 pedestrian deaths and 2,400 injuries each year in BC.
So, whose fault is it when a pedestrian is struck by a vehicle?
Both sides have pretty strong opinions about fault and their ‘rights’ – so, who does have the right of way and does it matter?
If you assert your presumed ‘right’ of way as a pedestrian, you can end up ‘dead right’ when taking a stand against a moving vehicle. Not worth it in my opinion.
As a driver, you may have the ‘right’ of way, but do you really want to exercise that right at the cost of causing injury or possibly taking a life. What’s ‘right’ about that?
The good news is there’s a middle ground here. Both pedestrians and drivers need to be more careful. Pedestrians don’t want to get hit and no driver wants to be responsible for injuring or killing a pedestrian.
So, here are some ideas where both sides take responsibility for their safety and actions.
- wear clothing that will help you be seen (especially at night) and/or add a reflective arm band or two (Canadian Tire carries Flashback Reflective Rib Straps good for legs or arms at just $4.99)
- add a flashing light to your outfit when running or walking at night (Mountain Equipment Co-op carries a whole range for under $5 or check out this funky little number – Nite Ize BugLit Flashlight for $9.50)
- don’t assume you ALWAYS have the right of way as a pedestrian. The right of way at a crosswalk is not without exception – section 179 of the BC Motor Vehicle Act covers pedestrians walking in front of moving vehicles “that is so close it is impracticable for the driver to yield the right of way“ (Sections 180-183 are worth a read as well)
- try and make eye contact with an oncoming driver before stepping out
- keep your eyes and ears open until you’re safely on the other side of the road
- don’t dull your senses by streaming loud music through your ear buds
- watch out for distracted drivers
- be extra vigilant when travelling through crosswalks and intersections
- slow down in school zones & watch for kids popping out from between cars (you’re right, they shouldn’t do that, but keep an eye out for them anyway, kids don’t always do the right thing)
- don’t assume you ALWAYS have the right of way as a driver. The rights between vehicle and pedestrian are covered in Sections 179-183 of the BC Motor Vehicle Act HOWEVER, you are driving a potential weapon that has as much chance of hurting or killing someone as an actual weapon, so don’t use it as such
- make sure there’s nothing in your car restricting your vision (objects hanging from rear-view mirror, decals, etc.)
- don’t run red lights
- when turning right on red, stop first (it’s the law anyway) & check for pedestrians before proceeding
- watch out for distracted pedestrians
Perceived or real rights as a pedestrian are not worth enforcing to the extent that it could cause injury or death. Dead right or dead wrong is still dead. Too harsh? Maybe, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
If you strike a pedestrian, call 911, stay on scene, offer aid, and, protect the victim from oncoming vehicles.
Don’t put yourself at risk when crossing the road at intersections or marked crosswalks. Remember that vehicles CANNOT stop on a dime; only cross when safe.