You Asked Google About Pedestrians. We Answered!

February 4, 2020


Road Safety


Laura Dawson

When we have a question, more often than not we’ll turn to Google for the answers. Many of us are pedestrians every day, walking down the street or crossing the road, so it’s no surprise that there are plenty of us peppering Google with questions about being a pedestrian, or who has the right of way. Because of the many pedestrian-related accidents, we figured we could step in and answer some of the more pressing questions. 

Before we get started though, we feel it’s important to define who and what a pedestrian is. 

A pedestrian is someone who is walking, running, using a wheeled device such as a skateboard, or using a personal mobility device such as a wheelchair or motorised mobility device.

Do pedestrians always have right of way? 

When using the road as a driver in Queensland you must give way to pedestrians who are on or entering a pedestrian crossing. But what about when people are crossing the road and they are not using a pedestrian crossing? In this case you must give way to people who are crossing a road you are turning into, whether you are turning from the left or the right. 

The same goes for a pedestrian who is walking in a shared zone, or who is currently in a slip lane - you must give way to them. When driving it is important to always travel at a speed that allows you to pull up safely if needed, whether at a pedestrian crossing or otherwise. With so many pedestrian accidents taking place on pedestrian crossings and with pedestrians in general, it is important for both drivers and pedestrians to take care.

Two women crossing the road

Where should pedestrians cross the road?

A pedestrian should cross the road at a pedestrian crossing or designated traffic light crossing wherever possible. This is the safest option. If there is no pedestrian crossing available, pedestrians should choose a section of road where there is good visibility, and no crests or dips that may make it harder for drivers to notice someone crossing the road.  Pedestrians should also cross the road at the shortest and safest route, which means crossing the road directly and not on a diagonal stretch.

Which side of the road should pedestrians walk on?

Pedestrians should walk on whichever side of the road is safest, on a footpath or a nature strip. If there is no designated footpath or nature strip it is acceptable for pedestrians to walk on the road, for example in a suburban area, so long as they are walking to face oncoming traffic.  

Is honking at pedestrians illegal?

It is illegal to honk at a pedestrian if there is no risk of a collision. If you are at risk of hitting a pedestrian it is legal for you to honk at them to warn them and to avoid an accident. This is the case in Queensland and across Australia, with courts and police being fairly strict about the penalties involved.

Woman and three young boys walking on the street

What is jaywalking and what’s not?

A traffic infraction that is classed as jaywalking includes: 

  • Failing to use a pedestrian crossing that is within 20 metres;
  • Crossing against a red light;
  • Walking across a road when the lights are green for traffic; and
  • Crossing a road diagonally (unless permitted by the traffic crossing).

An infringement for jaywalking can be handed out by police, and these fines are intended to act as a deterrent for unsafe pedestrian behaviour. We found that many Queenslanders would like to see fines for jaywalking increased, which means that people are aware of just how unsafe jaywalking truly is.

What are the main causes of pedestrian accidents?

Pedestrians are road users. But unlike cars, pedestrians are not protected by metal and seatbelts. Pedestrians are particularly vulnerable at dusk, and in areas where pedestrian crossings are not present. The main causes of pedestrian accidents stem from: 

  • Unsafe pedestrian behaviour, such as walking near the road while intoxicated, or failing to pay attention to the road. 
  • Jaywalking and crossing against traffic signals. When pedestrians walk against traffic signals they are running the risk of stepping out in front of traffic with drivers who are not expecting to see them. 
  • Mobile phone use and distracted pedestrians. The rise of mobile phone use sees more pedestrians looking down at their phones when walking next to roads, and across roads. 
  • Pedestrian consumption of alcohol. When people have been drinking or using intoxicating substances their perception of risk is lowered, as is their reaction and judgement time. This can contribute to a higher incidence of traffic accidents

Are runners and walkers allowed to use cycle lanes?

Pedestrians must not walk or run along a designated cycle lane unless the pedestrian is looking to cross the road by crossing the bike path, and so long as the pedestrian does not linger on the bike path for any period of time longer than is required to cross the road. 

Laura Dawson

Laura is a QUT Law School graduate with extensive experience in legal writing and research for Smith's Lawyers on compensation topics.