Do Pedestrians Always Have the Right of Way in Ontario?

You may have heard it said that pedestrians always have the right of way. But the truth is that there are times when pedestrians have the right of way, and there are times when drivers have the right of way. It is the responsibility of both drivers and pedestrians to obey the laws that pertain to them to help keep everyone safe on the road.

That is not to say that drivers have free reign if a pedestrian (mistakenly or otherwise) steps off the curb when it is not “their turn” – as a driver, you must remember that your car can be a lethal weapon and you must do everything in your power to control it.

According to a recent report[i] by the International Road Traffic Data and Analysis Group (IRTAD), Canada saw pedestrian death from collision jump by 10.5% between 2010 and 2016 – not a statistic we should be proud of!

Of all the rules in Ontario concerning drivers and pedestrians, some of the most misunderstood have to do with pedestrian crosswalks and crossovers.

Pedestrian Crosswalks

Crosswalks in Ontario have designated spots where pedestrians can cross the street at traffic lights. Crosswalks are marked by lines on the road and have lights indicating “walk” and “don’t walk” (either the words themselves or symbols of a walking man and a flashing hand). According to the Highway Traffic Act (HTA), a pedestrian may only cross the road in the appropriate direction on a “walk” signal. Some crosswalks also have a countdown. The countdown is used to indicate how much time the pedestrian has to finish crossing the street if they have already started. By law, they are not allowed to start crossing the street during the countdown, and they may be ticketed if they do.

Drivers must yield to pedestrians who are crossing the street while the walk signal or countdown is on.

Pedestrian Crossovers

Crossovers in Ontario have designated spots where pedestrians can cross the street where there are no traffic lights. Laws concerning pedestrian crossovers were updated in 2016. The laws for drivers as they pertain to pedestrian crossovers are as follows:

  • Drivers must stop their vehicles for pedestrians and not proceed until the pedestrian is off the roadway.
  • Drivers must not pass a vehicle that is already stopped at a pedestrian crossover.
  • Drivers must not pass a moving vehicle that is within 30 metres of a crossover.

As for pedestrians, they must still apply common sense when it comes to safety at crossovers. According to the HTA, a pedestrian must not step out onto a crossover when an approaching vehicle is already too close to reasonably be expected to stop.

One additional thing to note for both crosswalks and crossovers is that if a crossing guard is present, drivers must wait until all pedestrians including the crossing guard have left the road.

Remember, whether you are driving or walking, you have the responsibility to know what the laws are and take the appropriate measures to help keep yourself and others safe on the road.