Pedestrian deaths and cycling deaths have steadily increased in Ontario in recent years. In response to concerns about these increasing fatalities, Ontario laws governing pedestrian and cycling safety were made stricter in 2016 and 2017, and many Ontario municipalities have implemented infrastructure to protect these more vulnerable road users. Although pedestrians and cyclists don’t automatically have the right of way in every situation, the onus is on drivers to watch out for, and take due care around, pedestrians and cyclists who are clearly at risk of serious injury if they’re struck by a motor vehicle.
And, it’s important to know that Ontario has ‘reverse onus’ laws with respect to cycling and pedestrian accidents involving a motor vehicle. This means, if a pedestrian or cyclist is injured or killed in a motor vehicle accident, the onus is on the driver of the vehicle to prove that they were not negligent in causing the cyclist’s or pedestrian’s injury.
The Ontario Traffic Act contains the following laws to protect pedestrians
Drivers who commit the following actions and endanger pedestrians are subject to a fine and demerit points, even if the pedestrian was not injured.
- Failing to yield at a pedestrian crosswalk, school crossing or crossover. This requires that you remain stopped in your vehicle until any pedestrians have fully crossed the road. The requirement to wait until a pedestrian has fully crossed does not apply to pedestrian crosswalks at regular intersections without a school crossing guard. However, be aware that police officers use their discretion and sometimes ticket drivers who advance into an intersection before the pedestrian had sufficiently or fully crossed.
- Failing to stop at red light
- Failing to stop for a school bus
- Not remaining at the scene of an accident
In addition to a fine and demerit points on your driver’s licence, if you fail to stop for a school bus or at the scene of a collision, you may also be sentenced to up to six months in jail. And, failing to remain at the scene of an accident involving a pedestrian may further result in a two-year suspension of your driver’s licence.
As well as the above penalties, if you drive carelessly or aggressively and your actions endanger a pedestrian or cyclist, you may be charged with careless driving or careless driving causing bodily harm or death. Either of these charges can result in higher fines, 6 demerit points and a prison sentence of up to 6 months for careless driving and up to 2 years for a careless driving resulting in injury or death to a pedestrian. The latter charge can also result in a 5-year driver’s licence suspension.
Laws to protect Cyclists
Bicycles are considered vehicles under the Highway Traffic Act, so drivers must yield the right of way to cyclists in circumstances where they are obligated to yield the right of way to other motor vehicles. This means that a driver cannot turn left at an intersection into the path of a cyclist travelling straight in the opposite direction. Or, if a cyclist is coming up to, or passing you, on the right of your car, you must wait until the cyclist has passed before making your turn.
Drivers are required to leave a one-metre distance when passing a cyclist. And, if it’s not possible to maintain this distance from the cyclist, the driver must wait until it’s completely safe to pass the cyclist. Many cyclists have been seriously injured when they were side-swiped by a car or truck and this law is aimed at reducing these types of cycling accidents. Anyone found not in compliance with this law faces a fine and two demerit points.
‘Dooring’ is another frequent source of injury to cyclists. This occurs when a driver or passenger opens the door of a vehicle in front of a cyclist, causing the cyclist to collide with the door or lose control. Dooring carries a fine and demerit points, and this offence can be applied to other road users (not only to cyclists).
Motor vehicles cannot be parked or driven in a bike path or on bike lanes. However, drivers turning right may move into a bike lane that is marked by dotted lines if it is safe to do so, before they make their right turn.
At Injury Lawyers of Ontario (ILO), our cycling and pedestrian accident lawyers have helped many clients get the compensation they deserve after they were injured in a cycling or pedestrian accident. If you are an accident victim, you may be entitled to statutory accident benefits under your, or the ‘at fault’ driver’s, vehicle insurance policy. You may also be entitled to claim damages in a personal injury lawsuit against the at fault driver. Call an ILO lawyer in your community to find out about your legal rights to compensation.