Q&A - Stopping When Unsafe

Q&A ImageQuestion: A pedestrian was on the sidewalk mid block and an approaching driver stopped to allow the pedestrian to jaywalk. The car in the adjacent lane behind this driver stopped abruptly and almost caused a collision because the car following that vehicle was not expecting the stop. Should the second car have stopped or just kept going?

There was no valid reason for the first car to stop as the pedestrian did not indicate their intention to cross. I know in Kelowna one should not stop unless absolutely necessary but this was in Penticton on a 2 lane one way street. I believe the pedestrian was willing to wait until the cars passed.

Duty of Driver to Pedestrians

The Motor Vehicle Act places a very broad requirement on drivers to protect pedestrians in section 181:

181  Despite sections 178, 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.

Remember that a sidewalk is part of the highway.

Just because the lane to the left is empty, overtaking drivers cannot simply expect to continue past the stopped vehicle. Some consideration of why that driver stopped is required to insure that passing by is the safe decision to make. Sometimes a stop is required:

Passing a Vehicle

159  A driver of a vehicle must not drive to the left side of the roadway in overtaking and passing another vehicle unless the driver can do so in safety.

179 (3) If a vehicle is slowing down or stopped at a crosswalk or at an intersection to permit a pedestrian to cross the highway, the driver of a vehicle approaching from the rear must not overtake and pass the vehicle that is slowing down or stopped.

In this case it appears that a crosswalk was not involved but if there was one present mid-block section 179 would require the driver on the left to stop as well.

If the pedestrian did decide to cross in this situation, the driver of the vehicle overtaking on the left is also bound by section 181.

Stopping When Unsafe

If the driver in this example truly had no justification to stop for the pedestrian, they should not have:

144   (1) A person must not drive a motor vehicle on a highway

(b) without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway, or

Following Too Closely

The wisdom of allowing enough following distance behind the vehicle in front is highlighted in this situation.

You cannot be expected to be prepared for all eventualities but being prudent in your driving practices can help you react in a way that does not place others at risk.

Driving Can be Complex

There is no end of different situations encountered by drivers today. "Go!" should not always be your first consideration. Sometimes a stop may be required.

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