A person walks across an intersection, head down, texting. He is hit by a car. Is the driver at fault?
As I’ve stated before in this blog, the answer is: most likely yes. Pedestrians are in fact so vulnerable in the situation of collision with a vehicle, that the law is designed to encourage hyper vigilance while driving near people who are walking on the street. Section 193(1) of the Highway Traffic Act applies a “reverse onus” requiring the driver of a motor vehicle who collides with a pedestrian or cyclist to prove, that the resulting accident was not due to negligence or misconduct. More simply put, a motorist is always deemed at fault until he/she can prove there was no way to avoid the collision.
But, here is a question to consider as part of our duty to protect foot-travellers: Do we need to be more liberal in the way we approach the reverse onus when it comes to inattentive pedestrians whose reliance on technology increases daily?
From Honolulu, USA to Augsburg, Germany law makers are trying to address this issue. Some jurisdictions are slapping fines on distracted walkers, others are working on large scale PR campaigns to educate the public on the dangers that come from walking head down.
My view is that it is only a matter of time until Ontario incorporates stiffer penalties for distracted pedestrians and cyclists. At a minimum, I think we can expect something as simple as the introduction of fines. On the more extreme side, it is conceivable that we could see cases where the motor vehicle driver sues the injured pedestrian who clearly put himself/herself in harm’s way.
Everyone is legally accountable, or will be, eventually.