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Distracted walking can lead to devastating injuries

Walking down busy city streets with your eyes glued to your phone can have serious — if not deadly — consequences, says Toronto critical injury lawyer Dale Orlando.

“Distracted walking has become a real issue,” says Orlando, partner with McLeish Orlando LLP. “While drivers have a duty to keep an eye out for pedestrians, pedestrians also have an obligation to pay attention to their surroundings and look after their own safety.”

Orlando has seen the often devastating consequences. His firm has been retained on a case involving a pedestrian who was struck and seriously injured while crossing the street as she looked at her phone.

“Pedestrian distraction is something you see every day,” Orlando tells AdvocateDaily.com. “People stand at the street corner on their phone, glance up and the light has changed so they walk — not realizing a vehicle has started to make a right-hand turn in their path.”

A recent poll of more than 1,000 people by Insights West showed 66 per cent of those surveyed were in favour of distracted walking legislation, CBC News reports. In 2016, Toronto's city council passed a motion asking Ontario's transportation minister for a ban. The politicians learned the city could pass its own municipal bylaw, the article says. Vancouver and Calgary have also indicated an interest in similar bans.

Orlando says he, too, would support legislation that fines pedestrians for walking while distracted by their mobile phones or other electronic devices.

“Enforcement works,” he says. “If you want to stop behaviour, you legislate it, create a fine and after a period of time, people change.”

Orlando compares the idea to enforcement of wearing seatbelts. He says it took a generation to convince drivers and passengers that buckling up was more about safety than avoiding a fine.

Orlando says the threat to safety is real — his firm's client who was struck while crossing the street with her phone suffered severe internal injuries that will impact her health for the rest of her life.

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