Phones Down, Heads Up - Protects Pedestrians and Places Onus for Safety on Them

November 09, 2017, Kitchener, Ontario

Posted by: Robert Deutschmann, Personal Injury Lawyer

mobile phonePedestrians being hit by cars is at epidemic proportions in large cities. Many are pointing the finger at pedestrians for not paying attention on the sidewalks and crosswalks of our cities. You don’t need to look far to see how many people are walking while fixated on their phones rather than on their walk.

In an attempt to reduce the number of pedestrian car accidents, Ontario's Liberal MPP Yvan Baker has introduced a private members bill called “Phones Down, Heads Up Act”.  The bill will form part of the Highway Traffic Act. The private member’s bill follows a recent law in Honolulu, Hawaii that was adopted earlier in the month. Honolulu is cracking down on the people walking on the roads while texting with a staggered fine schedule. The more you get caught, the more you pay.

MPP Baker has indicated what he wants to do is to raise the awareness of the danger of having their eyes focussed on their devices when they step off the curb, “It’s really about making sure you know what’s going on around you and being able to respond”. The bill has the support of the Ontario Safety l=League, the IBC, and the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association.

In 2016 42 pedestrians died in Toronto as a result of being hit by vehicles. That is the second highest number in this century. The OPP reported 30 pedestrians dies on the roadways they patrol. This was also a new high. Disturbing as well, is the fact that most of the pedestrians were killed during daylight hours.

While this measure will be followed with fines of $50 for the first offence, $75 for a second and $125 for subsequent offences it remains unclear whether it will actually work to wake up pedestrians who rightfully assume that in a crosswalk they have the right of way. It also places an onus on the pedestrian to protect themselves when they are in the right. Could this legislation result in pedestrians who have been injured in a car accident being blamed by the at fault driver even though the pedestrian has done nothing wrong in crossing when they have the right of way?

Another key concern is one from a personal injury lawyer’s perspective. As the pedestrian would be charged pursuant to the Highway Traffic Act, they may be found civilly liable for an accident that they were not responsible for. This is problematic. Does this bill somehow place the blame on the pedestrian who was run over, rather than on the driver who ran them over?

On the whole it appears that we have lost the discipline to pay attention to our actions. We aren’t in the moment. Drivers and pedestrians are tempted with more distractions every day, and we must make a concerted effort to focus on the task at hand when we are interacting with others in public places. Driving, walking and cycling all require attention to the road, to the surroundings, and to other people.

Posted under Accident Benefit News, Automobile Accident Benefits, Car Accidents, Pedestrian Accidents

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Deutschmann Law serves South-Western Ontario with offices in Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, Woodstock, Brantford, Stratford and Ayr. The law practice of Robert Deutschmann focuses almost exclusively in personal injury and disability insurance matters. For more information, please visit or call us toll-free at 1-866-414-4878.

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