Beyond the Headlines

Protecting pedestrians

Posted: Nov 26, 2012 10:35 AM ET Last Updated: Nov 26, 2012 10:35 AM ET
I am a walker.
Ever since my wife and I sold our house in the suburbs two years ago, and moved downtown, I walk everywhere. I walk to work, to get our groceries, to movies and restaurants. So, whenever we report on yet another pedestrian struck in a crosswalk or intersection, it gets my attention.
Over the past week we've reported on several, including one fatality - a 34 year old man struck and killed in a crosswalk in Lower Sackville.
When we report these stories neighbours often demand steps to make the crosswalk safer, install flashing lights, or more enforcement, but there's rarely a discussion about the penalties for the driver of the vehicle.
The charge under the Motor Vehicle Act is "failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk". The maximum penalty is a fine of $687.41
Think about that.
If you're driving and are distracted by checking  your text messages, or fiddling with your Ipod, or yakking with your passenger, or you're simply hellbent on getting to your destination as quickly as possible, and you hit and kill a pedestrian, the price you pay is equivalent to the cost of a middle-of-the-line flat screen TV.
Now compare that to "stunting" - the charge laid for driving more than 50km per hour over the speed limit.
Consider this scenario: A driver is going 161 km per hour on Highway 104. It's a clear day, the pavement is dry, the traffic is light. There is no accident, no one is killed or injured.
As soon as the driver is pulled over they face an immediate suspension of their licence for a minimum of one week and their vehicle is impounded. Upon conviction they face a fine of $2,412.41 and an automatic six points penalty on their driving record.
For some reason, our lawmakers have determined there should be harsher penalties for excessive speeding than for striking a pedestrian in a crosswalk.
So here's some advice from a full-time walker.

When you approach an intersection or crosswalk ALWAYS assume the driver is distracted and doesn't see you. Even if the crosswalk lights are flashing, don't step out until you are sure the driver is paying attention and preparing to stop.
I know pedestrians have the "right of way", but being right is little solace when you are lying in a morgue.
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About the Author

Brian DuBreuil is a veteran journalist with CBC News. He has won two Gemini awards for his work, and neither involved dancing or singing on a reality show.

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