Q&A - Driver Right of Way Over Pedestrians

Q&A ImageQuestion: I live in quiet little Summerland and my question is about right of way. Our busiest intersection is a T-junction complete with 3 cross walks. Traffic usually proceeds through that T junction at a very slow pace.

It is very common to see pedestrians step out into a crosswalk without paying attention to vehicular traffic currently in the intersection.

graphic asking who has the right of way

Children are still taught to look left and right before crossing the street but older people in this town either believe that once they place a foot into the crosswalk they have the right of way or that they are somehow immune from the risk of being struck by a 2 ton vehicle.

I for one would not ever wish to run over anyone and I drive defensively. When it comes down to it, are there any rules that govern whether a vehicle currently transiting an intersection has a right of way over pedestrians?

Right of Way is Given, Not Taken

Overall, there is likely more onus on the driver to avoid colliding with a pedestrian than there is in having right of way over them.

Pedestrians do Have to Yield to Drivers

However, pedestrians must not walk in front of vehicles when it is not safe to do so:

Rights of way between vehicle and pedestrian

179 (2) A pedestrian must not leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close it is impracticable for the driver to yield the right of way.

Stepping Into a Crosswalk

In order to require the driver to yield, the pedestrian does have to step off of the curb into the crosswalk:

Rights of way between vehicle and pedestrian

179 (1) Subject to section 180, the driver of a vehicle must yield the right of way to a pedestrian where traffic control signals are not in place or not in operation when the pedestrian is crossing the highway in a crosswalk and the pedestrian is on the half of the highway on which the vehicle is travelling, or is approaching so closely from the other half of the highway that he or she is in danger.

Simply standing on the sidewalk looking across the street is not enough, as I learned from the first failing to yield to a pedestrian ticket that I ever wrote.

Remember Unmarked Crosswalks

Remember also that all intersections have crosswalks. They may be marked or unmarked, but they are still there.

General Duty of Driver

The balance of the law covering pedestrian / driver interaction in the Motor Vehicle Act is geared toward giving pedestrians right of way over drivers. In fact, the pedestrian does not have to be complying with the laws to have some protection:

Duty of driver

181 Despite sections 178 (repealed), 179 and 180, a driver of a vehicle must

(a) exercise due care to avoid colliding with a pedestrian who is on the highway,

(b) give warning by sounding the horn of the vehicle when necessary, and

(c) observe proper precaution on observing a child or apparently confused or incapacitated person on the highway.

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