|Sydney Morning Herald - Tuesday 13 March, 2007
Confused pedestrians caught in cross fire
By Jordan Baker
Crazy paving … a pedestrian in Glebe jockeys with traffic on a crossing where cars have right of way. Vehicles must give way at the zebra crossing on the right.
SYDNEYSIDERS are confused about the rights of pedestrians, and their mistakes are putting lives at risk, a study has found.
Many people are mistaking sections of brick paving and pedestrian refuges with official crossings, and think they have more rights on zebra crossings than they really do, the researchers found.
The authors of the report, published in the international journal Accident Analysis and Prevention, questioned almost 600 people across NSW about their understanding of right-of-way laws. Half the Sydney residents surveyed wrongly thought brick paving on the road gave them right of way. Twenty-seven per cent mistakenly believed a pedestrian refuge was an official crossing.
Sydneysiders were more likely to believe pedestrians had right of way than the respondents in the county.
Julie Hatfield, of the Injury Risk Management Research Centre of the University of NSW, was the report's lead author. She said brick paving confused both drivers and pedestrians.
"[They are] a couple of metres wide and look like they are a crossing, but they don't operate as a crossing," she said. "Nobody is really too sure. There's about 20 per cent that didn't know what the hell they meant."
Dr Hatfield called for these paved sections to be turned into official crossings or removed. "As far as I can see, they have no road safety benefit. I think it is done for aesthetic reasons."
However, pedestrian refuges - bays in the middle of the road to allow pedestrians to cross one section at a time - did have a safety benefit, especially for older people, Dr Hatfield said.
Most respondents knew drivers had to slow down and stop when a pedestrian was on a zebra crossing. However, 71 per cent wrongly thought the pedestrian also had right of way while waiting at a crossing.
The researchers also observed 2854 people on signalled crossings. They found there was confusion over who had right of way when drivers were turning left on a green signal and coming into the path of pedestrians who were also given the green light.
In NSW 78 per cent of collisions between pedestrians and vehicles occur when people cross roads.