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Pedestrians need to be on drivers' radar

I’ve heard a new law will require all drivers to stay stopped until every pedestrian has cleared the entire crosswalk.

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DECK: A new law would require all drivers to stay stopped until every pedestrian has cleared the crosswalk

INTRO: Advice columnist Eric Lai and other Toronto experts answer nonmechanical questions from readers.

Q. Crosswalks have signs stating, “No passing here to crossing.” Does this apply even if the crosswalk is empty, and overhead amber lights aren’t flashing?

A. Under the Highway Traffic Act, a “crosswalk” is the marked or unmarked pedestrian crossing found at intersections. Where unmarked, it’s basically where the sidewalk would be if it continued across the road.

A “pedestrian crossover” is what you’re referring to. These are distinctly indicated by signs, lines, markings and overhead lights for pedestrians crossing. They can be at intersections, but are typically found midblock near schools and parks. You may see “Ped Xing Ahead” painted in your lane.

Under S. 140(1) of the Highway Traffic Act, when a pedestrian is crossing within a pedestrian crossover, approaching drivers must stop before the crossover, and may not overtake another vehicle that is already stopped at a pedestrian crossover.

Additionally, S. 140(3) of the act prohibits drivers from passing other moving vehicles from the rear when approaching a pedestrian crossover within 30 metres (100 feet). This applies at all times, as there’s no stipulation in the law or signage that the crosswalk be occupied.

The above laws apply whether or not overhead amber lights are flashing.

I’ve heard a new law will require all drivers to stay stopped until every pedestrian has cleared the entire crosswalk. At major four-lane intersections, this will really back up traffic if cars can’t complete a left turn, or make a right on a red light, anytime a pedestrian steps foot onto the road.

Unfortunately, some early government press releases confused crosswalks with pedestrian crossovers, as defined above. Crosswalks, as found at most intersections, aren’t affected by the upcoming rule change unless a school crossing guard is present.

Effective January 2016, drivers must yield the whole roadway to pedestrians at pedestrian crossovers, identified by overhead lights and signs, and school crossings with a crossing guard. All motorists and cyclists in both directions must remain stopped until all pedestrians have stepped off the roadway.

Formerly, drivers could proceed once pedestrians cleared their half of the roadway at pedestrian crossovers.

Q. Do pedestrians always have the right of way, even when violating a traffic law?

A. Pedestrians can be charged with disobeying traffic lights, pedestrian signals or crosswalk rules. But even if pedestrians are in the wrong, drivers always have a duty to avoid a collision wherever possible.

General information provided above shouldn’t be considered legal advice. Freelance writer Eric Lai is a regular contributor to Toronto Star Wheels. Email your nonmechanical questions to him at [email protected] . Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.

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