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Put the right foot forward: do you know our pedestrian laws?


Pedestrians make up the largest group of road users, simply because we are all pedestrians at some time. As the holiday period comes to an end, more of us will be back walking to work and school once again. According to the most recent Road Trauma Australia statistical summary, there were 679 pedestrian deaths between 2016 and 2019. These statistics highlight the importance of keeping safe while you walk.

While it can be tempting to nip across the road right where you are, rather than walk up to a pedestrian crossing, it’s important to remember that our roads are a shared zone. To ensure the safety of all road-users, we must respect the pedestrian crossing rules.

The laws that pedestrians must follow are not as simple as looking left and right. As with motor vehicles, there are various regulations that guide pedestrians on how to safely use our roads. You could be faced with a hefty fine if you choose to ignore the pedestrian crossing rules. But how well do you know the pedestrian laws?

Laws for pedestrians

Pedestrians are classified as those that are on foot, push a bicycle or travel on wheeled devices such as skateboards, wheelchairs and motorised mobility devices. Below are just a few of the pedestrian laws that need to be followed:

A pedestrian crossing a road:

  • must cross by the shortest safe route, and
  • must not stay on the road longer than necessary to cross the road safely.

Crossing a road at pedestrian lights

If the pedestrian lights show a red pedestrian light and the pedestrian has not already started crossing the intersection or road, the pedestrian must not start to cross until the pedestrian lights change to green.

Do not cause a traffic hazard or obstruction

  • A pedestrian must not cause a traffic hazard by moving into the path of a driver;
  • A pedestrian must not unreasonably obstruct the path of any driver or another pedestrian.

Pedestrians travelling along a road (except in or on a wheeled recreational device or toy)

A pedestrian must not travel along a road if there is a footpath or nature strip adjacent to the road, unless it is impracticable to travel on the footpath or nature strip.

A lesser known pedestrian crossing rule

It’s not just pedestrians who need to adhere to crossing rules; there are rules for drivers as well. This includes a little-known rule that drivers must give way to pedestrians crossing the road into which their vehicles are turning. Drivers must give way to pedestrians if there is a danger of collision, even when there is no marked pedestrian crossing. This law applies whether or not there are traffic lights, stop signs or give way signs.

“Zombie” walkers

With the arrival of smart phones, we have seen the rise of “zombie” walkers – pedestrians who are engrossed in their devices rather than what’s going on around them. Just like driving, pedestrians need to be aware of their surroundings, especially when crossing the road. There have been incidents of pedestrians walking blindly into the path of oncoming cars which can have devastating consequences.

So always put your phone away while you’re walking, the journey to work is not the time to update social media. If you do need to look at it, make sure you stop and move out of the way of drivers and other pedestrians.

Intoxicated walkers

We all know the dangers of driving after drinking alcohol, but it can be just as dangerous to walk home. It’s estimated that many motor vehicle accidents are caused by pedestrians who are intoxicated. If you are going out and planning to drink alcohol, you should have a plan of how to get home safely. Either take a taxi or rideshare service or if you’re determined to walk, make sure you have someone sober to accompany you.

By following a few simple pedestrian laws and crossing rules, you can make your next journey a walk in the park.

Contact Shine Lawyers

If you or a loved one are a pedestrian involved in an accident caused by a car, motorcycle, bus, train or tram, our team of motor vehicle accident experts may be able to help you get back on your feet. Get in touch today to see if you are eligible for compensation and for help through the legal process.

Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: January 7, 2020.

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