A pedestrian pushing a child in a stroller and the driver of a van approach an intersection controlled by a traffic light with a pedestrian signal. Both the traffic light and the pedestrian signal are red. The driver is in the lane next to the pedestrian who arrives at the cross street and stops seconds before the driver arrives at the stop line.
The traffic signal turns green and the pedestrian signal turns white. No longer needing to stop, the driver turns right as the pedestrian starts to move ahead. Were it not for the crosswalk obstruction caused by incomplete snow removal making it difficult to push the stroller ahead, it’s entirely possible that I would have watched a collision occur.
Section 132 of the Motor Vehicle Act sets out the rules for pedestrian signals. It says in part that:
When the word “walk” or an outline of a walking person is exhibited at an intersection by a pedestrian traffic control signal, a pedestrian may proceed across the roadway in the direction of the signal in a marked or unmarked crosswalk and has the right of way over all vehicles in the intersection or any adjacent crosswalk.
It looks fairly promising for the pedestrian at first glance, doesn’t it? Right of way over all vehicles in the intersection should mean pedestrians first, shouldn’t it?
The driver was not in the intersection yet, but section 127 covers this situation:
A pedestrian facing the green light may proceed across the roadway in a marked or unmarked crosswalk, subject to special pedestrian traffic control signals directing him or her otherwise, and has the right of way for that purpose over all vehicles.
Finally, section 181 puts a further onus on the driver:
A driver of a vehicle must exercise due care to avoid colliding with a pedestrian who is on the highway
The sidewalk is part of the highway.
Clearly, this driver was required to yield to the pedestrian, but should she have moved to cross? Having the right of way is not a physical protection from harm. The painted lines of the crosswalk don’t help either as they are not a barrier.
She has a duty of care to both herself and the child to insure that it is safe before she proceeds. Had a collision occurred and a hearing to decide liability held, the justice would have reminded her of this and apportioned some of the blame to her for relying solely on right of way rules.
Let’s take a look at crosswalks that don’t involve any traffic lights while we’re on the subject.
If you take ICBC’s on line practice test for drivers, one of the questions shows two pedestrians standing on the sidewalk, mid block, each facing the other across a marked crosswalk and asks what the driver must do. According to the test, the driver must stop and let the pedestrians proceed.
Our rulebook takes a slightly different view in section 179:
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.
As I learned to my chagrin in court one day, the driver does not have to yield unless the pedestrian is actually in the crosswalk. Standing on the sidewalk looking across does not qualify.
A pedestrian must carefully step into the crosswalk and wait for a driver to yield before crossing in this instance.
Keep section 179 in mind though, as you must wait until it is safe to do so:
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.