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I grew up in Alberta and I was taught that you have to stop for a pedestrian who’s waiting to cross at a corner, even if there’s no crosswalk, stop sign or light? I live in Vancouver now and I rarely see people do this here. Is it the law here? When I stop for a pedestrian at a corner here, sometimes they look sort of confused, like they’re wondered why I’m stopping. – Arjun

In every province except Ontario, you have to stop for a pedestrian waiting at an intersection – even if there’s no painted crosswalk.

“A crosswalk does not have to be marked to be defined as one,” said Constable Tania Visintin, Vancouver police spokeswoman, in an e-mail. “The Motor Vehicle Act also defines a crosswalk as an extension of the lateral lines of a sidewalk, so if there’s a sidewalk at the corner, it would be an extension of those lines into the roadway.”

That means if you don’t stop for somebody waiting at a corner in British Columbia, you can be charged with failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. The penalty is $167 and three demerit points. Last year, 78 drivers were charged in Vancouver, Visintin said.

The rules are similar in most other provinces.

For instance, in Alberta, it’s a $776 fine and four demerits, although most provinces are in the $100–200 range.

“Any time there’s an intersection, you want to treat it as a crosswalk,” says acting Sgt. Peter Van Dorp with Calgary Police Service’s traffic section. “Pedestrians have the right of way to cross as long as it’s safe to do so.”

Crossing lines?

In Ontario, it gets confusing because the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) mentions both crosswalks and crossovers.

A crossover is, to oversimplify, a pedestrian crossing with painted lines. You have to stop for pedestrians waiting at them. A crosswalk, as defined in the HTA, can also include "the connections of the lateral lines of the sidewalks on opposite sides of the highway measured from the curbs,” even when there are no painted lines. But, unless there’s a stop sign, yield sign or traffic lights, you generally don’t have to stop for somebody waiting at one if there are no painted lines, police say. “When there’s no stop sign or crosswalk, you don’t have to yield unless the pedestrian has already entered the roadway,” says Sgt. Murray Campbell with Toronto Police Traffic Services.

In Ontario, stopping for that pedestrian at the corner might seem like a nice thing to do. But if there’s a lot of traffic, it may confuse the pedestrian – and the drivers around you.

“You may be encouraging the pedestrian to do something incredibly dangerous,” says Angelo DiCicco, director of operations at Young Drivers of Canada’s advanced driving centre.

Other drivers might not know why you’re stopped and they may not realize a pedestrian is crossing. They could pass you and hit the pedestrian. It’s better to let the pedestrian wait until both sides are clear.

Of course, once a pedestrian has started crossing the road, you have to yield to them. That’s true in every province.

But, even when they have the right of way, pedestrians still have to make sure drivers are going to stop before they start crossing, police say.

“Make eye contact and make sure they see you,” Calgary Police’s Van Dorp says. “Cars nowadays are getting fancier and drivers are losing focus on what’s happening on the road – as a pedestrian, you’ll never win against a vehicle.”

Editor’s note: This article has been updated from an earlier version to clarify the difference in rules between a crosswalk and a crossover in Ontario. The Globe regrets the error.

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