When Do Pedestrians Have the Right of Way?

Something many of us can relate to is that being a pedestrian on the road in British Columbia can be stressful and even hazardous for those of us not focused on being careful.

With average injuries of 1,600 for cyclists and 2,600 for pedestrians in automobile related accidents – pedestrians are considered some of the most vulnerable road users in the province -- having little to no protection from collisions with vehicles and an increased likelihood of related injury or even fatality stemming from an accident.

What are Your Responsibilities as a Pedestrian?

Although being a pedestrian may not be as dangerous as being a driver on the road, your focus should always be on safety (for yourself and others) and being vigilant towards what is happening around you and on the road. Unfortunately, due to impatience and disregard for safety, we’ve all seen pedestrians:

  • Crossing the crosswalk without the crosswalk signal go-ahead
  • Not paying attention to surroundings– talking on the phone, texting, and listening to music.
  • Attempting to cross when there is clearly not enough time before the traffic light turns green for vehicles
  • Crossing when the pedestrian light hasn’t turned green yet because there is an advance green for cars turning (extremely dangerous and happens more often than you think!)

Some things to keep in mind as a pedestrian:

  • Always cross at designated crosswalks
  • Always wait for traffic to stop before attempting a crossing.
  • Always watch for drivers turning into a crosswalk.
  • Always make eye contact with drivers.
  • Always be visible

Do Pedestrians Always Have the Right of Way Using Crosswalks?

A common misconception regarding pedestrians is they have the right of way by default when using a crosswalk. While this can be technically true, like most situations involving the law, it is not always the case.

When it comes to the law and the relationships between pedestrians, cyclists and motorists in BC - The Motor Vehicle Act of British Columbia establishes the law for all users of the roads in the province and generally provides that a pedestrian has the right of way when crossing streets at crosswalks, but must yield to vehicles otherwise.

A solid starting point regarding the right of way for pedestrians is:

s. 179 of the Motor Vehicle Act, which provides in part, as follows:

(1) Subject to section 180, the driver of a vehicle must yield the right of way to a pedestrian where traffic control signals are not in place or not in operation when the pedestrian is crossing the highway in a crosswalk, and the pedestrian is on the half of the highway on which the vehicle is traveling, or is approaching so closely from the other half of the highway that he or she is in danger.

(2) A pedestrian must not leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close it is impractical for the driver to yield the right of way.

How Does the Law Affect Pedestrians in British Columbia?

When it comes to the law and determining liability involving drivers and pedestrians, there are many factors that can come into play:

Some examples that can affect decisions of fault are:

  • Lighting and weather
  • Clothing worn by the pedestrian
  • Whether or not the pedestrian left the vehicle enough time to stop
  • How attentive were both the driver and the pedestrian
  • How fast was the vehicle going

Mitigate the Risk!

When it comes to right of way, there is no absolute answer every time – and decisions on who may be at fault can be based on driver and pedestrian behaviour leading up to an accident, environmental factors related to the accident itself, or even past decisions regarding similar accidents in British Columbia.

The most important thing to remember – is that the only way to avoid injury is to always keep your safety in mind – be aware and be careful!

If You Need Help

If you or your loved one has been injured as a pedestrian in a motor vehicle accident, you should obtain trusted legal advice to discuss your specific situation both regarding liability and compensation. Contact our compassionate and experienced legal team at Tim Louis Law and Associates to book your free consultation today by calling 604-732- 7678 or email timlouis@timlouislaw.com.