Halifax Police Investigate Three Pedestrian Crosswalk Accidents in 24 hours: Do Drivers Need a Refresher of the Rules of the Road?

by John McKiggan

CTV News is reporting that Halifax Police are investigating three separate car-pedestrian collisions in Halifax in the last 24 hours.

Pedestrians Hit in Crosswalks

All three of the injured pedestrians were in crosswalks when they were hit.

Two of the three collisions happened while the pedestrians were crossing in marked crosswalks. The third happened in an unmarked crosswalk.

Last month, three pedestrians were hit by cars in Halifax crosswalks; one of them resulting in fatal injuries.

Drivers at Fault?

I frequently hear complaints from drivers about pedestrians in Halifax who step out into traffic expecting cars to stop. But it appears from recent news reports that the majority of reported accidents have been the fault of drivers.

Rules of the Road

So I thought it was appropriate to provide a brief run-down on Nova Scotia law as it relates to drivers, crosswalks and pedestrians, and who has the right-of-way.

The rules of the road are set out in Nova Scotia’s Motor Vehicle Act and its regulations. The Motor Vehicle Act outlines the rules that apply to drivers and pedestrians to ensure their safety.

Some of this may seem pretty basic. But in my 22 years as a car accident lawyer in Nova Scotia I am constantly astonished at the number of drivers who do not know the basic rules of the road.

What is an Intersection?

An intersection is any place where two or more streets cross or meet each other.

What is a Crosswalk?

Every intersection has a crosswalk, and most of them are unmarked. A crosswalk is not just an area between two painted lines that run across a street. It is the space bounded between two lines (either marked or imaginary) that runs from one corner of an intersection to the opposite corner of the instersection.

The law requires drivers to yield to pedestrians at all intersections, whether or not there is a marked or unmarked crosswalk.

Intersections with Traffic Lights

Pedestrians and drivers are both required to obey the same traffic lights. Pedestrians should not cross a crosswalk during a red or yellow signal (even if the way appears clear).

No Traffic Lights

Pedestrians have the right-of-way and drivers must yield if the pedestrian is in a marked crosswalk or in an unmarked crosswalk.

Green Light

When a pedestrian is crossing in a marked or unmarked crosswalk, they have the right-of-way over all vehicles, including vehicles making left-hand turns that bring them across the path of a pedestrian.

Pedestrians Should still be Careful

Being in a crosswalk does not create an invisible force field around you. Even though you have the right-of-way, pedestrians should still be wary and look in all directions to ensure there is no oncoming traffic or a driver who hasn’t seen you or isn’t following the traffic rules.

Knowing that you had the right of way as a pedestrian isn’t much comfort if you end up in a hospital bed.

Traffic Signal Changes While Crossing

If the traffic signal changes to yellow or red while a pedestrian is in a marked or unmarked crosswalk, the pedestrian still has the right of way. Drivers must allow the pedestrian to finish crossing the street safely.

Walk-Don’t Walk

Some intersections have special signal lights with symbols of red hands or green walking symbols.

Pedestrians are required to obey these signals instead of regular traffic lights. In other words, even if the traffic signal light is green, if there is a red hand symbolizing Don’t-Walk the pedestrian should not enter the crosswalk.

Turning Vehicles

Vehicles turning left or right are required to yield to oncoming traffic including pedestrians in marked or unmarked crosswalks.

Passing at Intersections

It is illegal to pass another vehicle at an intersection or a marked/unmarked crosswalk if another car has stopped to yield to pedestrians.

More Information

If you want to brush-up on the rules of the road, Nova Scotia’s Registry of Motor Vehicle’s provides a free download of the Nova Scotia Driver’s Handbook.

My Final Advice

Want to know the best way to avoid pedestrian – car collisions?

In the words of Sargent Esterhaus from the television show Hill Street Blues: “Let’s be careful out there”.

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