Common pedestrian accidents in Ontario

By Matt Lalande in Pedestrian Accidents on March 15, 2022

Common pedestrian accidents in Ontario

Every year in Canada, hundreds of pedestrians are involved in accidents involving cars and other vehicles, with Ontario alone averaging over a hundred deaths a year, over the last ten years.

In 2020, 116 pedestrians died as a result of accidents, making it the top reason for road fatalities. While it continues to become safer for Ontario drivers and cyclists to use the roads, the number of pedestrian accidents continues to rise. 

Why are there so many accidents involving pedestrians in Ontario?

Dangerous Driving

The single greatest contributor to pedestrian accidents in Ontario is dangerous driving. This can include a number of different kinds of behaviour:

  • Speeding: Driving a vehicle in excess of the posted speed limit makes it challenging for the driver to remain in control of the vehicle. This can lead to pedestrian accidents in situations where pedestrians are attempting to cross the street at locations other than designated crosswalks or traffic signals, or when visibility is poor and the driver cannot safely stop the vehicle before a collision occurs. 
  • Driving while impaired: Alcohol and drugs can dull the senses of a driver, increasing the chances for a mistake and could result in a pedestrian accident
  • Driving while distracted: Within seconds of looking away, a car can travel significant distances. Drivers who are not fully focused on the road in front of them run the risk of getting into a pedestrian accident if they are not careful. 
  • Driving without stopping through a red signal or stop sign: Driving without abiding by road signals or giving right of way is an extremely dangerous driving practice, no matter if it is a major road or side street. This kind of aggressive driving is a major cause of accidents in Ontario for vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians, and when it is a pedestrian accident, it can lead to very serious consequences. 

Poorly Designed Road Infrastructure

Not all roads are made equally safe. Putting aside the statistics of pedestrian accidents, injuries and deaths, any Ontarian can list a number of intersections in their neighbour that are well-known for being unsafe, for one of any number of reasons:

  • An area where drivers tend to travel at high speeds: It could be a road that slopes downward, with the intersection at the base of the hill or a highway that offramps right into a traffic signal–roads that encourage cars to travel fast are potential spots for collisions and pedestrian accidents
  • A crosswalk with a short pedestrian signal: Drivers might misinterpret the counter on the pedestrian signal to be their cue to speed up, especially for those waiting for pedestrians to clear out before making a right turn. 
  • Multi-lane roads with a short pedestrian signal: Pedestrians who are unable to make it across the road by the time the signal turns red (including senior citizens, those with disability, and children) are forced to wait on the pedestrian island in the middle of a street to wait for the next light. The chances of being involved in a pedestrian accident while waiting in this vulnerable location rise significantly. 

Increased aggressiveness on the roads

Pedestrian accidents may be on the rise as a result of increased overall aggressiveness in drivers. In response to a national poll in 2021, a vast majority of Ontarians polled believe that driving in the province is becoming increasingly aggressive: 

  • In addition to the dangers of speeding, pedestrian accidents may be the result of drivers rushing to make a turn signal. 
  • Even in situations where the pedestrian has made a mistake that contributed to the accident, it’s still usually only the pedestrian who is injured when hit by a vehicle. 
  • Similar to cases of distracted and impaired driving, aggressive driving can mean that the driver is not fully in control of the vehicle during a pedestrian accident. 

Who is the most at risk in Ontario pedestrian accidents?

Pedestrian accidents are always serious; even at low speeds, there’s very little chance of a pedestrian not sustaining any physical injury after being in a collision with a vehicle. For pedestrians, the best advice is simply to stay out of the way of moving vehicels, but that’s easier said than done for some demographics of the population. 

  • Children: Particularly in school zones and residential neighbourhoods, speed limits are often much lower than on regular roads and also more strictly enforced. With their smaller bodies, children are at greater risk of backovers from careless drivers backing out of driveways and in parking lots. Children also often travel in groups, with family or friends, which can distract them from being aware that a vehicle is approaching. 
  • Senior citizens: Senior citizens may have more difficulty crossing the street for a number of reasons – they might respond a bit slower than others to the pedestrian walk signal, and they might not be able to move as quickly as others as well. During days when road conditions are less safe, their attention may be fixed on the ground to avoid slipping and falling, rather than on incoming vehicles. 
  • Impaired pedestrians: There is a significant percentage of pedestrians who are injured during accidents with vehicles because they are traveling while impaired, either drunk or under the influence of drugs. 
  • Distracted pedestrians: Similar to distracted driving, behaviour that would be considered distrating for pedestrians would include speaking on the phone while walking, listening to music, drinking or eating, and using a mobile device like smartphone. Being distracted while on the road can mean that pedestrians are unaware of dangers around them, such as incoming vehicles. 

What are the most common situations for pedestrian accidents?

  • Pedestrians hit on the sidewalk – unfortunately, being off the road doesn’t remove the risk of being involved in a pedestrian accident. Speeding vehicles, especially larger vans and trucks, pose a risk for pedestrians on the shoulder of the road or sidewalks.
  • Pedestrians hit on the island/middle of the street while crossing the street – there’s very little about standing on the mid-block or pedestrian island of a street that looks very safe or reassuring. People involved in pedestrian accidents in these situations are often senior citizens, unable to physically cross a major road in the time it takes a pedestrian signal to turn back to red, and children, who may mistakenly be trying to cross the road at places other than the designated intersection. 
  • Pedestrians hit by a vehicle moving straight – vehicles who drive through a red traffic signal without stopping run the risk of hitting pedestrians crossing the street on their right of way, and pedestrians who cross the street on their red traffic signal can be hit by vehicles who have the right of way as well. Since both situations mean that the vehicle is likely traveling at high speeds, this is a very dangerous type of pedestrian accident to be involved in, and can result in significant injury.
  • Pedestrians hit by a vehicle performing a turn – pedestrians hit by vehicles trying to perform a turn can often be the result of the vehicle attempting to make the turn before the traffic signal turns red, and hitting the pedestrian with the front or side of the vehicle. Pedestrians accidents of this sort with vehicles making left turns can be more serious than those making right turns; the right-handed lanes in Ontario mean that cars turning right will usually not be traveling as fast as those trying to complete the longer left turn. 

The law about pedestrian accidents

The Highway Traffic Act imposes a reverse onus on a driver who impacts a pedestrian on a public roadway. The duty of care is outlined in section 193(1), which section reads as follows:

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.“

Therefore, in Ontario, a driver is presumed negligent unless proven otherwise. A driver must therefore establish in court that they acted reasonably and properly in the circumstances – and if they cannot – they will be found negligent.

The reverse onus provision does not apply to private roadways (parking lots, unassumed roads, private property, etc.).
Therefore, should an accident occur on someone’s driveway or a parking lot, the burden remains with the Plaintiff to prove liability for the accident.

The impact of pedestrian accidents

Vehicle collisions are a leading cause of serious physical trauma and can do even more damage to pedestrians, who do not have the protection of being in a vehicle during a pedestrian accident. Survivors of pedestrian accidents can experience any number of physical injuries:

Along with the physical injury of a pedestrian accident, the psychological damage that can result from this kind of traumatic event is even more difficult to fully understand. An experience like this can result in other mental disabilities, like specific anxiety or depression that might need weeks, months, or even years of rehabilitation. Committing that sort of time and energy into recovery means taking time away from a carer, which can contribute to a person’s inability to continue work or affect their performance while at work, affecting their income and career progress. Pedestrian accidents are significant traumas that can be life-changing, affecting someone’s employability, future career prospects, and quality of life as a whole. 

Pedestrian Accidents and wrongful death

Unfortunately a significant amount of pedestrian accidents lead to wrongful death. In Ontario, the deceased’s estate and close family members are entitled to bring a claim to recover damages in a pedestrian fatality case – including the spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, brothers, and sisters of the deceased person. The damages recoverable are generally made in terms of economic and non-economic claims. In terms of economic claims, family members are entitled to advance claims for actual funeral expenses reasonably incurred, a reasonable allowance for travel expenses actually incurred in visiting the person during his or her treatment or recovery and for loss of income or the value of the services. For example, if the spouse of a loved one dies and he or she was a contributor to household expenses, then there could be a dependency claim made for the loss of income that the deceased would have reasonably contributed to the family as well as for other expenses, such as housekeeping or caregiving expenses.

If you or a loved one has suffered serious injuries as a pedestrian in Ontario, we can help

Our Hamilton pedestrian accident lawyers have been representing Hamilton residents as well as injured victims throughout Ontario since 2003. We never ask for fees upfront and work on a contingency fee basis – meaning that we do not get back until you get paid. We have recovered millions for pedestrian accident victims of all ages – from toddlers to seniors – and we can help you. Call us today no matter where you are on Ontario at 1-844-LALANDE (525-2633) or local in the Hamilton / Burlington / Niagara areas at 905-333-8888 today. Alternatively, you can email us through our website and we would happy to get back to you to discuss your pedestrian accident related losses.

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