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Liberal MPP proposes ban on walking and texting

  • December 5, 2017
  • by Will Davidson LLP
  • car accident, news, Ontario personal injury lawyers, pedestrian safety, personal injury, Personal Injury Lawyer, road safety, vulnerable road user, Will Davidson LLP,

A new law proposed by Ontario Liberal MPP Yvon Baker has elicited competing responses from law enforcement officials, fellow politicians, road safety advocates, and Ontario personal injury lawyers. The “Phones Down, Heads Up Act” was tabled in response to rising pedestrian fatalities in Toronto. It aims to improve road safety by imposing fines on pedestrians who cross streets while using cell phones and other electronic devices.

“If you walk the streets, you see people on their cellphones crossing the road using their phones,” Baker said. “Experts tell us that if you are distracted as a pedestrian that you are more likely to get hurt.”

Indeed, the province’s chief coroner noted that ‘11 out of 95 pedestrian deaths in 2010 involved people distracted by a cellphone or electronic device,’ and a 2015 report from Toronto’s office of public health found that ‘inattentive pedestrians were 40 per cent more likely to be struck,’ CTV News reports.

As such, Baker’s bill and other proposals like it have enjoyed support from certain quarters. In the past two years, the cities of Montreal and Toronto have each asked their provincial governments to make it illegal to cross the street while on the phone, and a similar law was recently enacted in Honolulu, Hawaii. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said she found the proposal interesting.

“The number of people I see walking in the middle of a big intersection with their face down looking at their phone, I think it’s incredibly dangerous,” she told reporters.

However, critics of Baker’s bill, including some Ontario personal injury lawyers, believe the law would punish pedestrians without addressing more pertinent issues, such as distracted driving, impaired driving, speeding, and a lack of protective infrastructure for vulnerable road users.

“If you’re a pedestrian, and you’re crossing in a designated crosswalk, and you have the right of way, I think you can reasonably assume that a car is not going to run you down and seriously hurt you,” Will Davidson LLP’s Paul Cahill told The Lawyer’s Daily for a recent article.

“What that might result in is a legal defence on behalf of the at-fault driver who hurt you,” Cahill continued. “That you [as the pedestrian] should take some responsibility for this accident even though you did really nothing wrong.”

Walk Toronto spokesman Dylan Reid called the proposed law redundant, telling CTV that “being hit by a car is a much bigger disincentive than a $50 fine.”

“Pedestrian inattention is a bit of a red herring,” Reid said. “It distracts people from the things that will actually make a difference – which are better infrastructure and getting drivers to not look at their phones and pay attention.”

On the streets of Toronto and around the province, pedestrians are much more vulnerable to injury than motorists. If you have been struck by a car and injured, contact the Ontario personal injury lawyers at Will Davidson LLP today to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation.


Image credit: Prayitno/Flickr

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