In March 2018, there were 2,100,000 iOS Apps available for download. From maps to music and stock market updates, there truly is “an App for that”.

The entertainment and convenience, however, comes with the price of a society that is increasingly distracted.

As a personal injury lawyer that represents pedestrians and motor vehicle drivers both groups could use a few reminders on the legal impact of car accidents involving a distracted pedestrian.

Reminder 1: The reverse onus on vehicle drivers

If a pedestrian is walking while talking on the phone and gets hit by a car, the onus is on the motor vehicle driver – not the pedestrian –  to show he/she acted reasonably.

This comes from the Highway Traffic Act [HTA 193 (1)] which states:

When loss or damage is sustained by any person by reason of a motor vehicle on a highway, the onus of proof that the loss or damage did not arise through the negligence or improper conduct of the owner, driver, lessee or operator of the motor vehicle is upon the owner, driver, lessee or operator of the motor vehicle. 

In short, when it comes to a lawsuit the pedestrian often has a slight advantage due to the law above.

Reminder 2: Pedestrians are being forced to be more vigilant 

The good news is that last year Bill 171, known as the Phones Down, Heads Up Act, was passed. This amended the Highway Traffic Act to prohibit pedestrians from holding and using certain mobile devices while crossing a roadway, subject to certain exceptions.

Pedestrians may no longer cross a roadway while holding and using a wireless communication device or electronic entertainment device unless they are contacting emergency services or continuing a phone call that began prior to crossing the roadway.

First offences will result in a fine of $50; a second offence, a fine of $75; and each subsequent offence, a fine of $125.

Reminder 3: We all play a role in public safety…and reread reminder 1 

Both drivers and pedestrians alike have a duty to be alert while travelling.

To keep our roads safe we all need to play our part or face legal consequences.

And, while laws such as Bill 171 have slightly leveled the playing field, drivers beware: the onus of proof still rests on your shoulders should an accident with a pedestrian occur regardless of whether or not the person was using the phone.

Nancy Young is a personal injury lawyer at Pace Law Firm. She can be reached at

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