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Martyn Williams: Yet another older person left with life threatening injuries after Halifax crosswalk incident

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Yesterday a 75 year-old citizen of Halifax was left with life threatening injuries after being struck on a crosswalk by the driver of a truck. His current condition is not known. 

The driver, a 55 year-old man, was traveling South on Kempt Road and was making a left turn onto Young Street, likely on a green traffic light. He was issued with a fine of $697 under section 125(1)(a) of the Motor Vehicle Act, which requires drivers to yield the right of way to a pedestrian lawfully within a crosswalk or stopped facing a crosswalk.’

Undoubtedly the lack of safe infrastructure for pedestrians affects seniors disproportionately. In chronological order (from most recent to January 2018) the previous ten pedestrian fatality victims in Halifax were aged 68, 73, 66, 69, 63, 57, 62, 60, 63 and 62.  Full details of those fatalities can be reviewed in this spreadsheet.

On Halifax’s signalized intersections we are accustomed to weave our way past turning drivers with a mixture of luck and skill. Signalized intersections are known to be treacherous for vulnerable road users and account for around 40% of pedestrian incidents within the municipality.

Yesterday’s incident follows a fatality last April arising from a driver turning right on a green light at the Portland/Eisner Boulevard signalized intersection, and a life threatening injury last June caused by a driver turning left on a green light at the Convoy Run/Bedford Highway signalized intersection. In both cases, the driver involved was issued with a ticket for failure to yield to a pedestrian.

Few drivers seem to remember when turning that they need to yield the whole crosswalk to pedestrians. Those who use signalized intersection crosswalks will be familiar with not being seen at all by turning drivers, or they are seen yet drivers move illegally past them on their heels or directly in front of them as they cross. Simply, the system does not work.

HRM states “Turning vehicles at signalized intersections must yield to pedestrians crossing on the walk signal”. However the requirement to yield is not restricted to pedestrians crossing on the walk signal, as this only lasts a few seconds. The requirement to yield to pedestrians continues during the flashing hand and countdown phase, after the pedestrian has initially stepped out on the full walk sign.. 

Educational materials produced by the Nova Scotia government reveal the dangerous task for pedestrians caused by traffic lights (and right on red permissions) that permit conflicting movements between vehicles and pedestrians.


The challenge from drivers turning left on a green light while pedestrians cross is shown clearly by materials produced by the University of Miami WalkSafe Program:

The caption provided by WalkSafe with this image states:

“Think about it – the driver in the yellow car has to concentrate on oncoming traffic too. On some streets, that oncoming traffic may be two, three, or four lanes of vehicles coming towards them, all at once.

Can you spot the pedestrian? (Well, we did put an arrow…)”

It is absolutely time for the Municipality to address this known danger with a policy specifically relating to traffic light controls, designs and timings that ensure vulnerable road user safety is the first and foremost priority. There are many ways and means to address the conflicts with established traffic light systems used in other jurisdictions, some of which are currently legal for use in Nova Scotia.

My full proposal to Councillors regarding this can be reviewed here. Please ask your councillor to support it, and save lives.

If you walk, cycle or use a wheelchair and are affected by road safety issues, please join HRM Safe Streets for Everyone. If your local crosswalk needs a crosswalk flag, please contact the Crosswalk Safety Society. Please remember to report issues affecting your safety to our municipal authorities using the 311 service.

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