The law places a duty on drivers to yield to pedestrians. The definition of a pedestrian is broad: “Pedestrian” means a person on foot, or an invalid or child in a wheelchair or carriage.
The law is based on the vulnerability of all “non-drivers” with whom motorists must, from time to time, share the roadways. It is this obvious vulnerability imposes the obligation on drivers to yield to pedestrians. But the law also requires pedestrians to watch out for themselves. It means nothing to a person to have the right of way if they die, exercising that right.
A pedestrians’ obligation to comply with the basic road rules—pedestrian traffic control signals, for example—is not optional. Pedestrians who wrongly assume that they need not comply put themselves at risk and are a hazard for drivers. No doubt many drivers will agree that careless pedestrians are a common problem. The best advice for pedestrians is to always be on the lookout for their own safety.
Always being on the lookout means never assuming that drivers have seen you. The best approach is to expect that an approaching driver has not seen you—especially drivers who are up high in big trucks, vans or buses. It also means never stepping off a curb when the light changes and the pedestrian signal gives the go ahead, without checking that, in fact, all the cars have come to a stop and it is safe to proceed. Busy intersections typically have drivers constantly trying to “push through” at the last moment of a light change. Also, head down under a hood or umbrella—a typical rainy day scenario—is an unsafe way to leave any curb.
One of the most basic rules, of course, is where to walk: this means on a designated pedestrian walkway, or the sidewalk if there is one, regardless of what side of the road it is on. With no sidewalk, a pedestrian is required to use the left side of the roadway to face oncoming vehicles and avoid the problem of vehicles coming up from behind, unnoticed. It should be noted that the “left side of the road” rule, may, in very unusual circumstances, not be practical.
Just walking along the street would seem to be a relatively risk free activity especially compared to crossing a street. But recently there has been unusually high number of local, national and international reports of pedestrians being killed or injured walking along roads, sidewalks, bridge walks or pedestrian malls by out of control vehicles. It is hard for pedestrians to constantly keep in mind the possibility that a vehicle might without warning come up onto the sidewalk, but that sort of tragedy is a rare but recurring part of urban life.
Statistics show that crossing the street is the riskiest activity for pedestrians. Generally, and despite all the control devices and rules for safe crossing, the busier the street, the higher the risk.
Please walk safely.