Jaywalking - what's the law?

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In NSW, recent crackdowns on jaywalking within the Sydney CBD have been widely publicised in the media, bringing to light the need for better education of both pedestrians and drivers. Do you know when and where you are legally allowed to cross a road?

A pedestrian is not only a person travelling on foot; people travelling via a skateboard, rollerblades, a low powered motorised scooter or a wheelchair are also considered to be pedestriansi. Regardless of how you choose to get around, there are rules and regulations governing pedestrian road use. Part 14 of the Australian Road Rules 2012 lists over 16 separate rules that pedestrians are required to follow. Pedestrian laws can vary slightly by state and according to the NSW Roads and Maritime Service, any associated fines can vary by council areaii. Exercising some common sense when crossing the road, wherever you are, can help to keep you safe and out of trouble with the law.

Road rules for pedestrians are in the spotlight with recent crackdowns on jaywalking in major cities.

In 2013, 42 pedestrians were killed in NSW aloneiii, and Australia-wide this number jumps to approximately 350 people every yeariv. Aside from the emotional and physical toll this takes on the victims and their families, it is estimated that the monetary cost associated with pedestrian deaths and injuries amounts to over $1 billion per annumiv. A thorough understanding of pedestrian road rules can not only help you avoid a fine, but can also help reduce your risk of being involved in an accident.

Road rules

Generally speaking, there are a few rules of thumb that you can follow to avoid a penalty and help reduce your risk of being injured while crossing a road. According to the Australian Road Rules, pedestrians are required to cross a public road using the shortest, safe route and not stay on the road for longer than necessaryi. If you are crossing at an intersection with pedestrian lights, traffic lights, or signs bearing instructions you must also obey the relevant rules associatedi. If you are within 20 metres of a marked crossing area, you are required to cross the road at the crossingi. It's best to try to walk on a footpath or nature strip. If this isn't possible, the safest option is to walk facing oncoming traffic and stay as far as possible to the outside of the roadv.

Pedestrians and motorists should obey the posted safety rules at all times.

Safety tips for pedestrians

Being mindful of your surroundings and realising that drivers may not always be aware of your presence can keep you out of harm's way. Always check for turning vehicles at intersections and wait for any moving vehicles to come to a complete stop before you step off the kerbvi. The NSW Centre for Road Safety advises that if you are listening to music or talking on the phone, press pause or put the call on hold so that you can concentrate on safely crossing the roadvi.

Safety tips for drivers

The Australian Road Rules state that drivers must always give way to pedestrians, even if they are crossing outside of a marked crossing zonevii. Drivers should also be mindful of whether or not they are in a high-pedestrian activity area or a shared zone. Most high-pedestrian activity areas, such as outside a shopping centre, will have a 40km/h speed limit and any area designated as shared zone will have a speed limit of 10km/hvii. These areas will be aptly marked with the appropriate signs, so that both drivers and pedestrians are aware of the rules that applyvii.

To find out more about the laws and fines on jaywalking in your area, contact your local council. Making smart decisions when crossing the road can mean the difference between reaching your destination safely and becoming part of the shocking road toll statistics.

iNational Transport Commission, "Australian Road Rules 2012", viewed 11 July 2014,

iiInformation received in July 2014

iiiTransport for NSW Centre for Road Safety, "Safer Walking", viewed 10 July 2014,

ivPedestrian Council of Australia, "Issues & Policies", viewed 10 July 2014

vTransport for NSW, "Pedestrian Safety", viewed 10 July 2014

viTransport for NSW Centre for Road Safety, "Tips for Pedestrians", viewed 10 July 2014

viiTransport for NSW Centre for Road Safety, "Tips for Drivers", viewed 10 July 2014