By Lauren Ferrone
Published: Wednesday, November 6, 2019
There’s a time and place for being footloose and fancy-free. On the dance floor? Yes. On the road? No way.
Just as motorists are expected to abide by certain laws, pedestrians have their own set of rules. We look at how to become the perfect pedestrian, from crossing the road correctly to walking on footpaths and even in parking lots.
Crossing the road
Let’s go back to the basics. Stop, look, listen, think and cross.
Chances are you were taught this as a child. It sounds simple enough, but neglecting to do this before stepping onto the road is a dangerous mistake many pedestrians – young and old – make. What does the law say when it comes to getting from one side of the road to the other?
If there’s a marked pedestrian crossing, use it. If the crossing’s a few metres down the road, walk a little further to get to it. It’s actually against the law to cross a road within 20m of a designated crossing. Doing so could land you a $51 fine, plus a $60 Victims of Crime Levy.
Where there’s no marked crossing, cross by the shortest possible route. Don’t criss-cross through traffic or cross diagonally, as it’s an offence to stay on the road longer than necessary.
Again, the penalty is a $51 fine, plus a $60 Victims of Crime Levy. Whether you’re at a designated pedestrian crossing or not, the general rule of thumb is the same: ensure you’re 100% certain the path is clear and that the motorist has seen you. On wider roads with a median strip, you might consider crossing the road in 2 stages, using the median to again check the traffic.
The unwritten rule: Keep left
Unlike motorists who must legally ‘keep left unless overtaking’, pedestrians aren’t required to walk on the left side of the footpath – but it’s a good idea. Here’s why.
Similar to driving, keeping left can help control traffic and give other footpath users the chance to pass if needed. That includes cyclists travelling on the footpath, as it became legal for them to do so in South Australia in 2015.
What happens if there’s no footpath or an obstruction stops you in your tracks? If it’s safe to do so, you may need to walk on the side of the road. If that’s the case, walk on the right side, as close as possible to the edge of the road. Facing oncoming traffic ensures you can see motorists coming towards you and they can see you.
Breaking the rules
If a pedestrian (or a cyclist) breaches an Australian Road Rule with no set fee, the
Pedestrians on roundabouts
Think the ‘give way to pedestrians’ rule applies at all times? In the majority of cases, it does. However, it’s the pedestrian who needs to give way to motorists travelling through a roundabout.
There are some other precautions pedestrians should take when crossing near or at a roundabout. Despite it being an offence for motorists not to signal their intention when turning, pedestrians shouldn’t assume drivers or riders will flick their indicator on at a roundabout. Wait and try to make eye contact with the motorist before they enter the roundabout.
Even better, try to avoid walking on or near a roundabout. If you can’t, look in all directions before crossing, including being mindful of the vehicles approaching from behind you.
Running a red (literally)
You’re nearing the lights at a pedestrian crossing and thinking of making a run for it when you see the green person start flashing red. Stop. According to the law, you mustn’t proceed until the light turns green again.
In cases where the green light starts flashing red as you’re walking across, try to move as quickly and safely as you can to the other side or nearest traffic island designated for pedestrians. Motorists who run a red aren’t the only ones penalised.
Pedestrians caught crossing an intersection on a red light will be fined $51 and receive a $60 Victims of Crime Levy.
Just as distracted motorists are dangerous, so too are distracted walkers.
Though texting, answering a phone call or even listening to loud music through your earphones are seemingly harmless tasks, they all pose a safety risk to road users. While there are no specific laws against pedestrians using their phones while walking on the road or footpath, they can be fined for walking without due care or attention, or without reasonable consideration for other road users.
Our advice? Wherever possible, stay off your phone and unplug your earphones so you’re completely aware of what’s happening around you.
Pedestrians in parking lots
It’s probably not the first thought that crosses your mind the moment you step out of your vehicle and into a parking lot, but in a split second you’ve gone from motorist to pedestrian.
Parking lots are just another area where motorists must give way to pedestrians.
According to RAA road safety expert Charles Mountain, parking lots are “notorious for pedestrian crashes”.
That said, there are a few ways pedestrians can co-exist safely with motorists travelling in and out of parking spaces.
“Stick to pedestrian walkways if there are any available, and be aware of your surroundings as you would on the road,” Mr Mountain says.
“Be sure to watch for vehicles’ brake, reversing and indicator lights to help judge the direction or next move of a motorist.
“And most importantly, whether you’re behind the wheel, pedalling through the streets or navigating by foot, remember all road users have a responsibility and part to play in keeping each other safe.”