Pedestrian Safety

Pedestrian safety concerns all road users, regardless of age. When a collision involves a vehicle and a pedestrian, it is the pedestrian who most likely suffers, often with tragic results. When pedestrians do not cross the road with due care, it can be difficult for the motorist to avoid unexpected pedestrians in the roadway, especially at night or during inclement weather. It is the responsibility of both driver and pedestrian to ensure the safety of each other by following some simple rules:

  1. Always cross at an intersection where there is a traffic control device, such as a traffic control signal or a stop sign.
  2. If you are the pedestrian, make eye contact with the motorist before attempting to cross to ensure that the motorist does see you.
  3. Do not attempt to cross until traffic has come to a complete stop.
  4. If you are the motorist, pay special attention to crosswalks [see photo] and the sidewalks leading to the intersection when you approach, even if you have a "green light".
  5. When crossing at a traffic signal, cross once the walk signal [see photo] is indicated. (To activate the walk signal you may have to press the pedestrian push-button. If there is no push-button, the walk signal will automatically indicate. At some rural intersections, pedestrian signals may not be provided.) If you have not completed your crossing and the flashing don’t walk [see photo] signal begins, continue your crossing as this is a warning to inform you that the light is going to change to the don’t walk signal. If you have not started to cross the road and the pedestrian signal [see photo] head is indicating the flashing don’t walk [see photo] signal, do not begin to cross as you do not have enough time to cross.
  6. If you are crossing at a traffic light and there are no pedestrian signal heads, cross at the beginning of the green light. Do not cross once the signal changes to amber (yellow) and never cross against a red light.
  7. Take extra caution when crossing at night. Motorists have more difficulty seeing pedestrians at night, especially if the pedestrians are wearing dark coloured clothing.

For more information on pedestrian safety, please visit the Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s website.

Intersection Pedestrian Signal

Where there is the need to provide a greater level of control to allow pedestrians to cross a road, and where a full traffic control signal is not warranted, an Intersection Pedestrian Signal (IPS) is an option. An IPS is a traffic signal and motorists tend to pay greater attention to the red signal indication and stop for pedestrians. On the side streets, which are under stop control (a stop sign) motorists must treat an IPS as they would any intersection — yielding right-of-way to the main street vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

Another device used to accommodate pedestrians crossing a road is a Pedestrian Crossover [see photo], which is common in Toronto. Due to only having an amber overhead indication, roadside signing and pavement markings, Pedestrian Crossovers have been found to be more problematic than an IPS. Motorists do not have to stop for pedestrians at pedestrian crossovers until the pedestrian indicates their intention and begins to cross the road. Both pedestrians and motorists do not readily understand these devices, hence the Region of Durham has replaced most with the IPS, which is more easily understood due to the presence of standard red/amber/green signal indications for the motorists, and pedestrian signals for the pedestrians.

Just as for intersection traffic signals, criteria must be met before an IPS can be warranted.

Crosswalks and Pedestrian Signals

At signalized intersections and Intersection Pedestrian Signals, there are painted crosswalks [see photo] for use by pedestrians. Pedestrian signals [see photo]are provided at the far side of the crosswalk to inform pedestrians when it is permissible to cross, that is, when pedestrians have the right-of-way. Although pedestrians may have the right-of-way, caution should always be used when crossing a road.

Pedestrian push-buttons [see photo]are provided for certain pedestrian crossings. If there is no pedestrian push-button the "walk signal" [see photo] will indicate every cycle; this usually occurs at the intersection between two arterial roads or at intersections with consistently high pedestrian activity. The push-button is provided when the signal is vehicle or pedestrian actuated from the side street, which is usually a collector road or local road. Once the pedestrian push-button is activated, the signal will provide for the opportunity for the pedestrian to cross under traffic control (the side street will receive the green indication). Depending upon the cycle length, a pedestrian or vehicle may have to wait a period of time (up to 100 seconds) depending upon the time of day and how the signal is operating. This may seem like an excessive length of time to wait, but it is based on the travel demand of the area, safety and efficiency. The pedestrian must be patient and cross only under the walk signal [see photo]. The operation can be explained by using an elevator as an example. The user must press the button and wait for the doors to open before proceeding further. This is much like a pedestrian crossing, but the user must wait for the "walk signal" before proceeding further.

The Ministry of Transportation provides guidance on the walking speed of pedestrians and this speed multiplied by the crossing distance (the crosswalk [see photo]) gives the time that it takes the average person to cross. When there is a higher percentage of children or mature adults, the walk time is increased to reflect the slower walking speed.

If you see:

"Walk Signal" – begin your crossing.

"Flashing Don’t Walk Signal" – if you have begun your crossing, complete your crossing, but if you have not started to cross, don’t — as you will not have enough time.

"Don’t Walk Signal" – pedestrians do not have the right-of-way, do not attempt to cross.


Kids Safety Village

The Kids Safety Village of Durham Region is a kid-sized version of a real town, located on the grounds of Kathleen Rowe Public School in Whitby. Set on 1.2 acres, the village features small buildings, detailed roadways, traffic lights and road signs, an operational railway crossing, battery cars, bicycles and a classroom.

Children learn about road safety as a pedestrian and a cyclist in a controlled, supervised environment. Since 1995, the realistic setting has allowed thousands of children in Durham to test their safety skills in a fun, learning environment.

For more information, please visit the Durham Regional Police Service website and click on kids corner.