Client Groups – Seniors

Pedestrian Safety and Seniors

Senior pedestrians are more at risk of being involved in a serious or fatal accident. Adopting safe habits is essential to avoid the worst.

Why are senior pedestrians more at risk than others?

As people age, their physical, sensory and cognitive abilities decrease, which may affect them when getting around on foot. These abilities include:

  • muscle strength
  • balance
  • reaction time
  • vision
  • hearing

This explains why elderly pedestrians are overrepresented in statistics and are often more seriously injured than younger victims.

Useful information

Senior pedestrians: scan your environment and take your abilities into account

Various factors may influence your safety, such as:

  • obstacles (for example, differences in height between the street and sidewalk)
  • distance (for example, crossing the street from between two intersections, even when there are no vehicles nearby, to avoid walking to the next intersection
  • evaluating a car's speed
  • visibility (for example, a truck obstructing the intersection you wish to cross)

The Highway Safety Code and common sense: both go together

It is essential that you adopt safe habits, such as:

  • crossing at intersections or places authorized by the appropriate road sign (pedestrian crosswalk)
  • obeying traffic lights, pedestrian lights and stop signs
  • looking left, right, then left again before crossing the street. Look over your shoulder to see whether a car is coming up behind you
  • walking on sidewalks. If there are none, walk on the shoulder or the side of the road, preferably facing oncoming car traffic (you should see the cars' headlights). However, if it is safer to walk with the flow of traffic (for example, if that side is better lit or if the shoulder is wider), you can choose to do so. 

Even when you have the right of way, always stay aware of your surroundings and the behaviours of other road users.

Useful information

When getting around on foot, visibility is important!

Darkness is a pedestrian's enemy, because it prevents motorists from seeing them properly. This is also the case when it is raining or snowing.

More than a third (35%) of traffic accidents in which an elderly pedestrian (age 65 or older) was killed occurred during the fall months (average from 2015 to 2019). 

 

To be visible when it is dark, wear brightly coloured clothing or reflective strips.

Being visible also means avoiding being hidden by something on the side of the road (bus shelter, pole, vehicle, tree, building, etc.). Before crossing the street, make sure that drivers have seen you by attempting to establish visual contact. When in doubt, wait before crossing. 

Intersections where turning right on a red light is allowed

In most towns and villages across Québec, drivers may turn right on a red light, except where prohibited by a sign.

However, if you live on the island of Montréal, turning right on a red light is prohibited everywhere. Regardless, you should still check to make sure the way is clear before crossing!

Before crossing an intersection where turning right on red is allowed

  1. Stop on the sidewalk or, if there is none, on the shoulder.
  2. Look left, right and left again. Look over your shoulder to make sure that no vehicle or cyclist is getting ready to turn right on the red light.
  3. Once you are sure that the way is clear, cross the street.

Blind spots: danger zones… especially for pedestrians!

In most towns and villages across Québec, drivers may turn right on a red light, except where prohibited by a sign.

However, if you live on the island of Montréal, turning right on a red light is prohibited everywhere. Regardless, you should still check to make sure the way is clear before crossing!

Heavy vehicle blind spots are to blame for several accidents involving pedestrians, especially at intersections.

Safety rules

When you are at an intersection, follow these safety rules:

  1. Look out for vehicles and check their turn signal lights to see where they intend to go.
  2. Avoid being in a blind spot, in particular a heavy vehicle blind spot. If you cannot see the driver, the driver cannot see you, meaning that you are in a blind spot.
  3. Try to make eye contact with the driver to make sure he or she has seen you before you cross the street. If in doubt, let the vehicle go ahead first.
Useful information

A truck driver has little chance of hearing you if you try to make your presence known.

Obey signs and signals for pedestrians

At intersections

If there are pedestrian lights AND traffic lights

At an intersection, if there are pedestrian lights and traffic lights, obey the pedestrian lights.

Illustration of a pedestrian traffic light showing a white human silhouette and a countdown timer authorizing pedestrians to cross the road. Stay within the two white crosswalk lines or parallel pavement markings when crossing the road. The numerical countdown indicates the time you have left to cross.
Illustration of a pedestrian traffic light showing a flashing orange hand and a countdown timer indicating the time left to cross the street.

 

The flashing hand symbol with a countdown indicates that you should only begin to cross if you are able to reach the other side before the hand stays orange. If you have already begun crossing, hurry up.

Illustration of a pedestrian traffic light showing a flashing orange hand and a countdown timer indicating zero, thus prohibiting pedestrians from crossing. Do not cross.

 

To have as much time as possible to cross the street, you should start crossing as soon as the pedestrian light begins (when the white silhouette appears), after making sure that all vehicles have stopped.

If there are only traffic lights

Illustration of a red, amber and green vertical traffic light. You are allowed to cross if the light facing you is green, and you have the right of way once you are on the roadway.

 

If there are stop signs

Red octogonal stop sign. You have priority over motorists, who must bring their vehicle to a stop and yield the right of way.

See our section entitled On Foot.

Pedestrian crosswalks

Sign with a pedestrian, an arrow and a “yield” symbol. This sign indicates a pedestrian crosswalk. Pedestrian crosswalks are enclosed within yellow pavement markings and identified by a sign. These crosswalks are located away from intersections, where there are no stop signs or traffic lights. Before crossing at a crosswalk, make sure you can do so safely. You have the right of way when you begin crossing the road; motorists and cyclists must stop to let you cross.

 While crossing, do a visual scan:

  • Look around you and perform visual scans before and while crossing the street. It is a good idea to do a visual scan to identify drivers that could be distracted instead of looking at the ground.
Warning

Pedestrians are not immune to fines

Failure to obey pedestrian rules (such as pedestrian lights or signs and signals) could make you liable to a fine of $15 to $30, in addition to legal costs.

Sharing the road

Road users must remain vigilant and anticipate the appearance of other road users.

Remember that even though pedestrians are more vulnerable than many other types of road users, they still have a part to play to ensure that the road is shared harmoniously.

When out walking, you must share the road with other users.