Articles for Non-Lawyers

Photo: Pedestrians walking during winter storm

Pedestrian Safety During Winter by Patricia Santucci

Walking in a Winter Wonderland Strategies for Staying Safe as a Pedestrian

It is particularly dangerous to be a pedestrian in Ontario during the winter months. The most dangerous months for pedestrians in Ontario are November, December and January. In fact, January is the peak month for pedestrian collisions leading to fatalities for Ontarians, according to research compiled by Ontario’s chief coroner which was released in 2012. Below are some reasons why it is so dangerous to be a pedestrian during the winter months here in Ontario.

Inclement Weather

Bad weather can hinder a driver’s ability to avoid a collision with a pedestrian. Precipitation can cause slippery conditions and poor visibility, especially during dusk and dawn. These conditions also affect the behavior of pedestrians, who are more likely to get involved in an accident when they may be less attentive when they are in a hurry to get out of bad weather, when they are maneuvering around puddles, snow banks or icy patches, or when slippery weather makes it difficult for them to move out of danger from a vehicle quickly enough. In addition, when pedestrians are dressed for bad weather, sometimes their clothing can restrict visibility (especially hoods or hoodies).

Poor Visibility

Darkness is a big issue which contributes to reduced visibility, especially during the periods of dusk and dawn. As we hit November, it becomes dark in Southern Ontario when we are on our way to work and our way home. This reduced visibility is an issue both for the driver and for the pedestrian.

Unsafe Pedestrian Behavior

Pedestrian behavior can also contribute to the cause of an accident. Issues like jaywalking can become deadly when the conditions are poor due to bad weather and poor visibility. Impaired driving is an obvious cause of many motor vehicle accidents, but it is also the case that alcohol consumption contributes to unsafe pedestrian behavior as well, especially during the holidays. Being distracted by a cell phone is another behavior that leads to an increase in accidents, especially over the winter months when driving conditions are poor.

Strategies for Staying Safe as a Pedestrian During Winter

Santucci Law suggests the following strategies to minimize your risk of being hit by a motor vehicle when you are a pedestrian out on the streets and sidewalks during the winter months:

  1. Make yourself visible by wearing reflective clothing to make it easier for drivers to see you;

  2. Wear good footwear appropriate for the winter weather;

  3. Be cautious of clothing that impairs your peripheral vision, like hoods and hoodies;

  4. Walk facing traffic so that you can see cars coming towards you and get out of the way if necessary;

  5. Make eye contact with drivers to make sure that they see you, especially before crossing at an intersection;

  6. Don’t be distracted by your headphones, electronic devices or cell phones;

  7. Watch for vehicles turning through the crosswalk, and don’t assume that the driver has seen you, even if you have the right of way;

  8. Always use the designated cross walk, and follow pedestrian signs and traffic signals. Don’t jaywalk, cross on a yellow or red light, or cross against a pedestrian walk signal;

  9. Take a cab if you have been drinking or have a designated driver for a holiday party you want to attend where you may consume alcohol;

  10. Don’t have “herd mentality“ – do not follow a group of pedestrians who are not obeying the traffic laws or doing something dangerous;

The Bottom Line

I urge you all to take extra caution when walking around our beautiful City over the next few months. If the unthinkable happens and you do get into an accident, we are here to help. We are focused on one result. Yours.

About the Author Patricia Santucci

Patricia Santucci is a personal injury lawyer born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario. She holds several degrees having attended King’s College at the University of Western Ontario, McMaster University, earned a Master of Arts degree at the University of Windsor and an Ontario Teaching Degree from Teacher’s College as well as her Ontario Teaching Certificate. After graduating from the University of Alberta law school she was called to the bar in 2000. You can find Patricia on and LinkedIn or directly through this website