Pedestrian Accidents and the “Distracted Walking” Debate

Bronson Jones & Company LLP’s accident lawyers recently discussed the consequences of distracted driving. Distracted driving is a growing problem and BC law prohibits cellphone use while driving. But what about “distracted walking”? Should there be a law against inattentive pedestrians? One Ontario lawmaker says yes.

Bill 171 – The “Phones Down, Heads Up Act”

Rising pedestrian deaths have prompted some jurisdictions in the world to pass laws targeting distracted walking. For example, in 2017 Honolulu, Hawaii, became the first U.S. city to ban people from texting or using other digital devices while crossing the road. Following that trend, a proposed law targeting distracted pedestrian has been introduced in Ontario. On October 30, 2017, Bill 171 (officially called the Phones Down, Heads Up Act, 2017 but nicknamed the “Zombie Bill”) was introduced in the Ontario Legislature by Etobicoke Centre Liberal MPP Yvan Baker.

If the private member’s bill becomes law, it would amend Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act to prohibit pedestrians from holding and using certain mobile devices while crossing a roadway, subject to certain exceptions, such as calling emergency services or continuing a phone call which started before crossing the roadway. The Phones Down, Heads Up Act would impose fines ranging from $50 for a first offence to $125 for a third offence for anyone caught using a cellphone or electronic device while crossing the street. Bill 171 would also require the Ministry of Transportation to conduct an annual campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving, with an emphasis on texting and driving.

Pedestrian accidents and the “distracted walking” debate
The professed purpose of the proposed distracted walking law is to increase road safety by encouraging pedestrians to put down their electronic devices or risk fines. While it would give police the platform to flag this dangerous behaviour and may raise road safety awareness, some are critical that the proposed law places the onus of safety on pedestrians and feel that issue of road safety has more to do with distracted drivers than pedestrians. Distracted driving in BC results in more fatalities than impaired driving, and is also one of the leading contributors of pedestrian accidents and crashes with cyclists and motorcyclists. Pedestrians are extremely vulnerable in traffic accidents and legislation such as the Phones Down, Heads Up Act may send a signal that victims are to blame and not distracted drivers. Pedestrians should always pay attention to where they are walking, but it is up to drivers not to interfere with people using crosswalks with the proper right-of-way.

It is worth noting, however, that from a personal injury compensation perspective, inattentive pedestrians already face the potential for negative consequences (in addition, of course, to the risk of personal injury itself). The law in BC already places a duty on pedestrians to look out for their own safety. If a pedestrian’s inattentiveness prevents him or her from noticing that a car is not going to stop or causes the pedestrian to cross outside of a crosswalk, the court might find that the pedestrian bears responsibility for the accident. Such a finding would result in a decrease in personal injury compensation that corresponds with the percentage of fault assigned to the pedestrian.

Experienced road accident lawyers assist injured pedestrians
If you are an injured pedestrian, the experienced car accident lawyers at Bronson Jones & Company LLP can assist you. We offer a free initial consultation to help you determine whether you have a case and whether you want to hire us to resolve it. Call us toll-free at 1-855-852-5100 (24 hours) to make an appointment with one of the car accident lawyers at any one of our 13 convenient locations throughout the Lower Mainland including Vancouver, Abbotsford, Burnaby, Chilliwack, Coquitlam, Langley, Maple Ridge and Surrey. If you are injured and cannot come to us, just let us know, and we can arrange to meet you in your home or in the hospital.

Legal Guidance & More, from Injury to Recovery
Bronson Jones & Company LLP exclusively represents victims of motor vehicle accidents, and that’s all we do! Unlike other law firms which deal with everything from dog bites to divorce, Bronson Jones has built more than 30 years of trial experience and in negotiating fair settlements for clients injured in motor vehicle accidents.
We’ve also developed an extensive network of medical and occupational specialists, therapists, rehabilitation specialists, and others to help you recover and deal with the impact of your injury on your physical health, family life, finances and future. Additionally, such reports may be essential in the development of your case. If you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, call any of the 13 Bronson Jones locations in the Lower Mainland for our expertise and advice. All of our cases are handled on a contingency (percentage) basis and you don’t pay until we collect.

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