Written By: Nick Todorovic and Brandon Pedersen, Student-at-Law
All too often, we find ourselves turning on the evening news to read the headline, “Pedestrian struck while jaywalking.” The term “jaywalking” has brought with it a stigma of being illegal to cross the street at any time when not at a marked pedestrian crossing. Regardless of where a pedestrian is crossing, motorists need to be diligent to ensure that they keep a close eye out for vulnerable road users.
According to Toronto bylaws, it is legal to jaywalk, unless the pedestrian interferes with traffic. Under the Toronto Municipal Code, as long as a pedestrian yields to the right-of-way traffic, they are not in breach of the bylaw.
According to Section 144(2) of the Highway Traffic Act, if a street has a marked pedestrian crossing, it is illegal to cross at any other point; however, this section does not stipulate how far from the nearest marked pedestrian crossing a pedestrian must be in order to legally cross mid-block. The Toronto Police Service have said, as a rule of thumb, that if a pedestrian is over 30 metres away from the nearest marked pedestrian crossing, then they may cross mid-block.
In R. v. Tablate, a driver was cruising along Sheppard Avenue in Toronto when she felt a “bump.” After pulling over and exiting her vehicle, she observed someone lying on the road, as well as the damage on the side of her car.
The hit pedestrian was charged with s. 144(22) of the Highway Traffic Act, which reads as follows:
Where portions of the roadway are marked for pedestrian use, no pedestrian shall cross the roadway except within a portion so marked.
The question addressed by the Court was, should a pedestrian crossing a roadway be required to walk more than 100 metres to the marked portion of the road (the crosswalk) and an equal distance back to the opposite side of the road, or is it beyond the requirement of this section for the pedestrian? In its decision, the Court concluded that it is beyond the requirement of this section. What this means is that if you are more than 100 metres away from a marked pedestrian crossing in either direction, according to the Court in Tablate, you are fine to cross. Of course, you should always be mindful of traffic and only cross when it is safe to do so.
Subsequent cases have followed a similar line of reasoning. In R. v. G. Dorian, the police charged a man who suffered a serious traumatic brain injury when he was struck by a motor vehicle as he was allegedly crossing the street mid-block. The Court agreed that it was common sense for an individual to cross mid-block if they were over 90 to 100 metres away from a marked pedestrian crossing. The accused was found not guilty.
Motorists have a Reverse Onus for Striking a Pedestrian
In terms of civil liability, the HTA imposes a reverse onus on a driver who injures a pedestrian on a public roadway. Section 193(1) of the HTA outlines the reverse onus:
When loss or damage is sustained by any person by reason of a motor vehicle on a highway, the onus of proof that the loss or damage did not arise through the negligence or improper conduct of the owner, driver, lessee or operator of the motor vehicle is upon the owner, driver, lessee or operator of the motor vehicle.
Therefore, a driver is presumed negligent unless proven otherwise. This means that a driver must prove that they acted reasonably and properly in the circumstances. The rationale behind the reverse onus is to further ensure motorists act with extra caution around pedestrians and cyclists.
 Toronto Municipal Code, Chapter 950, Section 950-300B.
 Highway Traffic Act, RSO 1990, c H8, section 193(1).