Newfoundland Injury Law Blog
Chesley F. Crosbie, Q.C.
In 2008 the Government of Nova Scotia amended their Motor Vehicle Act to impose new rules aimed at improving pedestrian safety. The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador should have a look. The new rules clarify that the driver of a vehicle must yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian lawfully within a crosswalk or stopped facing a crosswalk. Drivers in this province certainly need to be reminded of this responsibility! Another needed reminder is that if outside a crosswalk, a pedestrian crossing a roadway must yield the right-of-way to motor vehicles in the roadway, which does not, of course, relieve either of them from the duty to exercise due care. Fines for motorists who fail to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks were doubled, to $500 for a first offence, and there is provision for an automatic 7 day license suspension.
The reverse onus provision in section 248 of the Nova Scotia Motor Vehicle Act remains in effect: When a pedestrian is injured by a motor vehicle, the onus is on the driver and vehicle owner to show the accident was not the fault of the driver. This reverse onus provision is something we do not have in our laws in Newfoundland and Labrador and should implement.
The spate of motor vehicle-pedestrian collisions which occurred last week is a good occasion for the government to have a close look at improving safety and clarifying the rights of pedestrians.
Chesley F. Crosbie, Q.C.
Three serious road accidents involving pedestrians including one death occurred last week, and I posted the transcript of a good CBC radio interview on the topic. Here's the point I would make about pedestrian collisions, and it's one the government should act on.
Sure, it's easy to say everyone should be more observant of safety, including pedestrians. But the loser in any disagreement between a motor vehicle and a pedestrian is going to be the pedestrian.
I walk to work most days and I cross LeMarchant Road in front of the Basilica, at the intersection with Bonaventure Avenue. And I can tell you from experience that one in three cars do not stop for a pedestrian entering a crosswalk. I've complained to the Chief of Police about enforcement, with no result.
Others have suggested ways to improve safety and reduce accidents and needless injury and death. As a lawyer helping injured people, I see an area where our law of the roads needs reform. Most other provinces have a rule on their books that vehicles running down pedestrians are presumed to be at fault. An example is s. 248 of the Nova Scotia Motor Vehicle Act.
Pedestrians are frail and vulnerable. It's time our legal rules shift the onus of proof against the driver, who all too often is focused on everything but pedestrian safety, and protect the frail.