Ontario tries to protect schoolchildren with tough new law targeting drivers

School zone sign.
The law, aimed at protecting kids as they cross the road is timely with schools back in session after the holiday break. iStock

The new year usually rings with resolutions around eating healthier and losing weight, often forgotten by the end of January, as other priorities loom large.

One thing drivers and cyclists in Ontario won’t forget, whether they resolve to drive more safely or not, is a new law in effect as of Jan. 1, that dictates when they can resume driving after stopping at pedestrian and school crossings. The law, aimed at protecting kids as they cross the road is timely with schools back in session after the holiday break.

According to Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation, “These rules apply at pedestrian crossovers identified with specific signs, road markings and lights — the new rules do not apply to pedestrian crosswalks at intersections with stop signs or traffic signals, unless a school crossing guard is present.”

While the law doesn’t apply to pedestrian crosswalks or intersections with lights and stop signs, drivers and cyclists shouldn’t be any less vigilant at stopping or driving through these areas. Pedestrian injuries and deaths have seen noticeable increases during the past few years. Toronto alone has seen almost 40 pedestrian deaths each year since 2013.

CBC Toronto spoke to Constable Clint Stibbe of the Toronto Police Service, who said, “Once the pedestrian is on the roadway that’s different because now traffic has to stop in both directions.”

The new law comes with a fine of up to $500 if drivers accelerate through a crossover before pedestrians and/or schoolchildren have safely crossed the street. Note that fines are doubled in clearly marked Community Safety Zones near schools and other public areas.

Pedestrian safety and a rise in deaths prompted the province to pass the law after studying recommendations from a 2012 coroner’s report on the issue.
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