Who Has The Right-Of-Way – Pedestrians Or Cars?

school zone saftey

In the Vancouver 24 News (April 17, 2013) last week, there was an awesome observation by Keri Potipcoe regarding the rights of pedestrians. As she states, technically a pedestrian does have the right of way, but is it common sense to just step off the curb in front of a car? Of course not. But it happens every day in city traffic.

My philosophy is share the road, whether you’re a driver, a motorcyclist, a cyclist or a pedestrian. It makes good sense to have common sense and good manners. The best strategy is to be aware and assess the surrounding situation. I’m both a driver and a pedestrian, so I can offer advice from both sides of the street (pun intended).


  • Think, look and listen – this one isn’t just for children. It takes all three senses to navigate traffic safety.
  • Realistically estimate the speed of a car – it may look far away, but cars can’t stop on a dime, especially if the driver is speeding.
  • Don’t assume a driver is being rude or cutting you off. For the driver, there’s a lot going on: traffic, traffic control signals, pedestrians, bicycles, car blind spots and other external distractions. Sometimes a driver truly doesn’t see you. Make sure you have eye contact before stepping in front of a vehicle.
  • Take turns – if you’re at a busy, uncontrolled crosswalk or intersection, please let the cars cross every now and again.
  • When the white walk crossing signal turns to red flashing hand at controlled intersections – STOP! This means it’s not okay to start crossing. This also gives drivers time to turn right or left without running a red light.
  • A solid hand signal lit up means the crosswalk should be unoccupied. Don’t step off the curb – this is unexpected for a law-abiding driver!
  • Do not assume a green light means you can cross. In Vancouver the white walk light is often delayed at intersections in order to let cars turn right. This is usually accompanied by an advance green right arrow for the driver.


  • The No. #1 safety strategy a driver can employ is to maintain the speed limit.
    • According to Safekidscanada.ca, a pedestrian struck by a car traveling at 50 km/hr is eight times more likely to be killed than a pedestrian struck at 30 km/hr.
  • Don’t jump the crossing signals. Let pedestrians cross while the white crossing signal is displayed.
  • At uncontrolled intersections, if a pedestrian is waiting to cross, slow down and stop before the crosswalk. You can also put on your hazard lights to warn other drivers behind you or coming up beside you.
  • If you are on a street which has two parallel lanes and a car is stopped, slow down to ensure you don’t hit the pedestrian who may be crossing in front of the other car.
  • Last but not least, SLOW it right down in school and park zones. Kids are unpredictable.

According to the Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles, there were over 50 pedestrian fatalities in BC in 2011. That does not include injuries. Regardless of “rights and laws”, in BC, if a car hits a pedestrian, be assured that the defendant’s insurance company (in most cases ICBC) will investigate and try to find fault with the pedestrians behavior or actions. According to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, a full 33% of pedestrian-car accidents are the fault of the pedestrian. The reality is when a person on foot hits a car, the injuries are going to be substantial and it’ll be a long road to recovery for the pedestrian. Use common sense and good manners to keep everyone safe and accident free.

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