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The Highway Code – Rules of the zebra crossing

It can certainly be confusing to know who has right of way on a zebra crossing. Zebra crossings are much more readily observed in the UK than other places in the world, and yet there is seemingly so much confusion over who has right of way – pedestrians or drivers? 

 

Who has the right of way on a zebra crossing? Is it illegal to not stop? 

Rule 195 in the Highway Code states that: 

  • you MUST give way when a pedestrian has moved onto a crossing

You are legally required to stop at a zebra crossing once a pedestrian has moved on to the crossing, however, you’re not required to stop until the pedestrian has moved on to the crossing. 

Confusing? The consensus among drivers and pedestrians alike is that it’s a legal requirement to stop when a pedestrian is waiting at a zebra crossing – however, this is not legally the case. 

Observing the Highway Code’s rule that states that you are only legally required to stop once a pedestrian has moved on to a crossing is potentially dangerous. Many pedestrians in the UK think that drivers should stop when a pedestrian is waiting, which is far safer, and is how we teach our learners. 

Many drivers also stop when a pedestrian is approaching a crossing, however stopping prematurely in this manner is potentially dangerous, as the pedestrian may not enter the crossing, and you may unnecessarily slow the flow of traffic.

However, for the safety of pedestrians, it is much safer to slow down when you see a zebra crossing upcoming, as pedestrians can quickly appear in view and may plan to use the crossing. 

You should be prepared to stop when approaching a zebra crossing. When you see a zebra crossing with someone waiting on it, you should be slowing down and stopping. Even though this is not a legally required practice of the Highway Code, it is best practice for the safety of pedestrians and drivers alike.

Do you have to wait for a pedestrian to finish crossing both zebra crossings? 

As stated in rule 20 of the Highway Code:

‘You do not need to wait until a pedestrian has finished crossing both zebra crossings before moving off, as they can wait on the middle island until it is safe to cross the second zebra crossing.’

If a zebra crossing has an island then each zebra crossing is treated as two separate crossings, meaning that you can drive on once the pedestrian has safely reached the second crossing.  

What about when you’re queueing in traffic?

When queueing in traffic you must leave the crossing clear so that pedestrians can cross freely. You should take extra care where the view of either side of the crossing is blocked by queueing traffic or incorrectly parked vehicles. Pedestrians may be crossing between stationary vehicles. (Rule 193)

 

RED’s advice on zebra crossings 

  • In the UK, you must stop at every zebra crossing once a pedestrian has moved on to the crossing
  • It is best practice to slow down and prepare to stop whenever you see a pedestrian approaching or waiting at a zebra crossing
  • You don’t need to wait for a pedestrian to cross both zebra crossings when there is an island in the middle 
  • When queueing in traffic, you must leave the zebra crossing clear 
  • Fail to stop once a pedestrian has moved on to a crossing and at the very least you risk getting 3 points and a £100 Fixed Penalty Notice!

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Been on a few lessons and struggling with roundabouts? Find out how the Highway Code says to tackle them and you’ll be well on your way to passing your test!

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