sidewalkOn June 9, a pedestrian was struck by a car reversing from a driveway in Bradford – but no charges were laid.

South Simcoe Police Staff Sgt. Steve Wilson blames a gap in Ontario law.

“According to case law, sidewalks are not considered a “highway” under the Highway Traffic Act,” Wilson notes. “If a car is pulling off a roadway into a driveway, we can lay a charge. But if the car starts off the highway (i.e. on private property) and backs into a pedestrian on the sidewalk before actually reaching the roadway, it is not (an offense).”

A 2004 Ontario Court decision ruled that “clearly the word ‘sidewalk’ is not included in the definition of highway, and one would have expected it to be included if the legislature intended it to be a component of the highway.”

The Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, concerned about the omission, asked for an amendment to the Highway Traffic Act, to include sidewalks in the definition of highway “at least as much as it relates to pedestrian use and safety.”

“Sidewalks are used by our most vulnerable citizens who deserve to have their safety supported by legislation that properly holds motorists accountable for the actions,” said Wilson. However, Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca has not supported amending the HTA, or the OACP request, but instead has suggested that the gap be dealt with by municipal bylaw.

It’s not that simple, says Bradford West Gwillimbury Manager of Enforcement Jon Popple. “The Highway Traffic Act does give us some authority to pass bylaws, like the parking bylaws, the speed limits,” but the HTA would have to be amended to include sidewalk collisions in the list, before the town could pass an appropriate bylaw.

With a bylaw in place, the maximum fine would be $5,000 under the Provincial Offences Act, although in a collision with “significant” consequences could see charges laid, compelling the offender to come to court. Again, Popple points out that bylaw enforcement officers don’t have the authority to lay charges under the Highway Traffic Act, for moving violations. “The police still have to lay charges.”

A number of municipalities are looking at changes that would allow municipal enforcement officers more powers. Calgary, has launched a pilot project to use bylaw enforcement to issue speeding tickets in residential areas, and Sudbury is considering the deployment of “Special Constables.”

Popple concludes that having bylaw enforcement step in to deal with unsafe situations involving the town’s sidewalks is “doable… Just, the right things have to happen at the provincial table.”

Source: The Barrie Examiner