BELLEVILLE – While Jan. 1 is the beginning of many New Year’s resolutions, it also marked the start of a new law for Ontario drivers.
According to Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation , both drivers and cyclists are now expected to yield the whole width of the roadway to pedestrians  at pedestrian crossings . These new rules also apply to crosswalks  when a school crossing guard is present.
“Even if the pedestrian is on the other side of the road and your lane is clear at that point, you have to wait until they are completely across the road before you proceed,” said Belleville Police Const. Brad Stitt.
Those caught breaking the new law can face a fine of $150 to $500, as well as three demerit points . Fines are doubled in community safety zones which are often found near schools.
“Anytime you’re in the graduated licensing program , demerit points are your enemy,” said Stitt. “It only takes a 16 km/h over the speed limit speeding ticket and one of these tickets and you’re going to see the Ministry of Transportation. There’s a good chance you’re going to lose your licence.”
The new law is part of an update to the Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act . Stitt said it is a welcome change.
“I would absolutely say that anything the province can do to make our roadways safer for all users is a positive thing,” he said.
QNet News spoke to Loyalist students about their experiences with impatient drivers and their thoughts on the increased penalties.
Paul Holland, a second-year Business Sales and Marking student, said he is in support of the new laws. Holland said he’s seen too many close calls when it comes to pedestrians and vehicles colliding.
“Pay attention to your surroundings. If you’re not aware of what’s going on around you, you’re just asking for trouble,” he said.
Holland said he feels that the increased penalties aren’t too harsh, and that they suit the crime.
“If (drivers are) going to be in a big rush and try to cut corners, then they get what’s coming to them,” he said. “It’s the law. If you don’t want to follow it, don’t drive.”
But not everyone agrees that the penalties are fair. Erik Jervis, a third-year Chemical Engineering student at Loyalist, said he understands that the fine is there to ensure people follow the law, but disagrees with the three-demerit-point penalty.
“I think the majority of the people they catch will have no idea that that law exists,” he said. It “doesn’t necessarily make you a bad driver just because you didn’t wait until they crossed.”
But Stitt said the changes in the law could help at high-volume intersections like North Front Street and College Street. He also said that motorists need to be cautious at this intersection in particular because of its proximity to Quinte Secondary School.
“At certain times in the day you have hundreds of students who are rushing to grab a bite to eat on their lunch hour,” he said. “There’s a prime example of why everyone needs to work together to be safe.”
Despite the new law’s applicability to Ontario drivers and cyclists, Stitt noted that roadway safety is ultimately a joint responsibility between pedestrians and motorists.