Comment 64662

By kevlahan (registered) | Posted June 07, 2011 at 10:03:07 in reply to Comment 64658

You are correct that the highway traffic act does require motorists to exercise due care and attention at all times (although this is not equivalent to automatically assuming the motorist is at fault), however the statistics throughout North America show that motorists are only very rarely charged and convicted when they injure or kill pedestrians and cyclists.

In Ontario the worst that motorists usually face (such as the bus driver who killed a woman at Gore Park last year) is a few demerit points on their license or a fine of a few hundred dollars, even when they plead guilty. This hardly fits the seriousness of the crime.

In other words, the law is interpreted by the police and courts in a way that sets the bar very high. The statistics simply aren't consistent with an interpretation of the law that puts the responsibility on motorists. In those parts of Europe with a strict liability law charges and convictions are the rule, not the exception.

In fact, the friend who's mother was hit is a lawyer and pointed out to the police what the law actually states (i.e. that it is the motorist's responsibility to drive carefully and avoid hitting pedestrians). However, they insisted that if there was any indication that the pedestrian was doing anything even slightly "wrong" they would have no case.

Another example of this attitude come from Hamilton's Traffic department. The head of Traffic actually told me that if a motorist hit and killed a pedestrian crossing in a crosswalk not located at a signalized intersection (i.e. one with traffic lights or stop signs) the motorist would not be charged. Clearly this is not true according the letter of the law, but he presumably has had a lot of experience in how the law has actually been enforced!

In any case, the laws regulating traffic are provincial and vary significantly between provinces (although none has a strict liability law, as far as I know). In western Canada motorists are required (and actually do) stop on both sides of the road as soon as a pedestrian steps off the curb. This is true wherever the pedestrian is crossing (e.g. mid-block).

If you still don't believe that the lives of pedestrians are not valued very highly, read this article from the Toronto Star from May 27 2011 "Is a person's life worth $500? Highway Traffic Act says yes"

"For $500, you can buy a pretty nice 32-inch flat screen television.

It’s also the price you’ll pay for killing a pedestrian in Ontario if you’re charged with failing to yield under the Highway Traffic Act.

You won’t go to jail. You won’t even lose your driving licence.

“It blows my mind,” said Corry Kuipers, whose sister Tina, 65, was killed on April 13, 2010 when she was run over by a truck as she tried to cross Queen St. in Brampton. The driver of the truck pleaded guilty to failing to yield and was fined just $500."

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