Is it pedestrians or drivers who need to give way?

If you are walking across a road that a driver is entering or leaving, do you know who has to give way?  Perhaps it’s a good thing if you don’t and are hesitant, because if you a confident that you do know, you could be wrong.

It probably won’t surprise you that a 2006 study found that in 20% of cases, both the pedestrian and the driver thought that they had the right of way.  We can only hope that they don’t both enter the intersection at the same time.

We are gratified to see that the State Government is removing left turn slip lanes in areas with lots of people walking, because too many drivers think that they have the right of way, when they don’t.

It doesn’t help that on this question, states often go their own way, with different rules in different parts of the country.

The South Australian Road Rules (Rule 353) say that, at an unsignalized intersection, the driver turning to enter into a road that a pedestrian is crossing has to give way to the pedestrian.  But if the driver is leaving the road that the pedestrian is crossing, it is the driver who has right of way.  If you think this is bizarre when the pedestrian is walking across the side street of an arterial road, we agree with you!

A recent article in The Conversation argues that the road rules should be amended to require drivers to give way to pedestrians at all intersections, with those that don’t have signals to be legally treated as if they were marked pedestrian crossings. “We should think of these intersections as spaces where vehicles cross an implicit continuous footpath, rather than as places where people cross a vehicular lane.”

The images below show how the intersection of The Parade and Edward Street looks now, and how it looks in the proposed Masterplan.

The images below show how the intersection of The Parade and Edward Street looks now, and how it looks in the proposed Masterplan

The proposal would embolden a pedestrian crossing Edward Street.  Hopefully a motorist turning left into the Parade wouldn’t try to assert their legal right of way.

One comforting thought is that, no matter where you are in the country, a motorist has a duty of care and must stop for any pedestrians who are already crossing the road.