School’s Out, but Road Safety is Still in.
That’s the message the RCMP wants to send, especially to the young drivers that are getting behind the wheel for the first time this summer.
A second message that needs to make the rounds is that pedestrian safety is (practically speaking) a shared responsibility. As a pedestrian, you may think you always have the right of way, and in many cases cars and other motor vehicles must yield to pedestrians, but if they don’t, being right isn’t going to prevent you from being seriously injured or killed. As part of the class of vulnerable road users, along with cyclists and motorcyclists, pedestrian and motor vehicle collisions account for approximately 15% of road fatalities in Canada.
A recent initiative by Parachute Canada, Vision Zero Network, provides some sobering statistics.
Pedestrian injuries occur when drivers:
- Drive distracted (e.g., while texting) or negligently without proper care and attention
- Speed (speed really does kill)
- Disregard weather or traffic conditions
- Disobey traffic signs or signals
- Fail to yield the right of way to pedestrians at marked crosswalks and intersections
- Fail to come to a complete stop at a stop sign
- Fail to stop before turning right on red at an intersection
- Drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Do Pedestrians have any Duties When it Comes to Traffic Safety?
Drivers have a duty to watch out for pedestrians, but pedestrians also have a responsibility to be proactive about their own safety by being alert and aware of their surroundings. Here are some tips to be safe as a pedestrian:
- Be aware of speed and flow of traffic where you plan to cross the street
- Look both ways before crossing the street
- Check to make sure all traffic has stopped when crossing a multi-lane road
- Avoid texting, talking on the phone or listening to music while crossing the street
- Dress for the weather conditions and time of day, e.g., when it’s dark, raining or snowing, wear bright or reflective clothing
- Never let young children cross the street unaccompanied
- Don’t jay walk, cross at marked crosswalks, never mid-block or against the crossing signal
- Follow all traffic signals
- Don’t assume drivers see you. Try to make eye contact with drivers to confirm they have seen you before you step into the street.
- Watch for drivers making turns
Contributory Negligence in Pedestrian Injury Claims
Under Alberta’s Traffic Safety Act, when there is a collision between a motor vehicle and a pedestrian, the driver will usually be found 100% liable for the accident unless he or she can prove that in the specific circumstances of the accident, there was nothing a reasonable driver could have done to prevent the accident. In most cases, that boils down to an argument that the pedestrian did, or failed to do something, which caused or contributed to the accident. This is what lawyers mean when they talk about “contributory negligence.”
Contributory negligence occurs when an injured plaintiff fails to act prudently, and this failure is a contributing factor to the accident that injured the pedestrian. If a pedestrian is found to have caused or contributed to the accident, the court may reduce the amount of damages that can be recovered from the defendant by the percentage that the pedestrian is responsible. For example, if the accident occurred, in part, because the pedestrian was wearing dark clothing and darted out into an intersection at night a court might well find the pedestrian 50% liable for the accident. The practical impact is that any damages awarded to the pedestrian would be reduced by 50%.
Use of Highway and Rules of the Road Regulation
Part 3 of the Use of Highway and Rules of the Road Regulation sets out the rules that pedestrians must obey in relation to highways and roadways.
Courts may consider other factors in assessing a pedestrian’s contributory negligence such as:
- Whether a pedestrian was distracted (glued to a cell phone, listening to music, horsing around with friends)?
- Whether the pedestrian was jaywalking or crossing against a light or traffic signal
- Whether the pedestrian chose to cross at points of the road with reduced visibility or where obstacles were present (e.g., crossing between parked cars)
- Whether the pedestrian exercised due care and attention when crossing, e.g., did they see a speeding car coming and step out any way?
- Whether the pedestrian was impaired (drunk or high) to the extent that they were inattentive to their surroundings
- Whether the pedestrian was required to yield the right of way to traffic
- Whether the pedestrian was using sidewalks or available paths and walking facing traffic approaching from the opposite direction.
- Whether the pedestrian stopped or loitered on the road instead of crossing as quickly as reasonably possible.
- Whether the pedestrian made the effort to check that traffic had come to a stop before entering a crosswalk or intersection
- Whether the pedestrian took care to make him or herself visible to drivers given the driving conditions at the time of the accident.
What if you are Contributorily Negligent?
Even if you didn’t follow the rules of the road to the letter you are entitled to Section B Benefits and you may still be entitled to damages for your injuries. Your best course of action is to discuss your situation with an experienced personal injury lawyer.
Whatever the facts, it is absolutely crucial that you tell your lawyer everything you can about the circumstances leading to your injuries. Keeping facts back because you think they hurt your case is a recipe for disaster. You can bet that the lawyer for the other side will thoroughly investigate the accident and if you are caught in a single lie or omit a significant fact about the accident, your credibility can go straight out the window even if you are 100% honest about everything else including how your injuries have affected your life.
Are you an injured pedestrian? We offer free, no obligation consultations with experienced personal injury lawyers. If you’ve been injured it’s always better to know what you are facing so that you can make informed decisions about your options.
Contact us for a Free Initial Consultation about your pedestrian injury claim.