By Michael Phelan
Published: Thursday, February 10, 2022
When we were kids, it was drummed into us to look both ways before crossing the road. Look right, left, then right again to make sure nothing is coming and then, when the coast is clear, safely cross to the other side. As we enter Adelaide’s festival season, these pedestrian rules are more important than ever before.
Over the past five years 59 pedestrians were killed on South Australian roads, according to State Government data. The figures for metropolitan Adelaide are even more alarming with pedestrians accounting for more than one in five road deaths in the same period.
In 2021, there were nine pedestrian fatalities across metro Adelaide – that’s a staggering 29% of total road deaths in the area. A further three were killed in regional SA.
Despite being the most vulnerable and exposed road users out there, pedestrians share an equal responsibility to do the right thing. To help, samotor has identified several common scenarios where pedestrians have to be extra careful.
1. Texting and walking
Calling someone, sending a text, checking social media, taking a selfie – there are so many ways mobile phones capture our undivided attention. That’s okay if you’re relaxing with a coffee at a café but if you’re stretching your legs, it could be dangerous.
When focussing on your phone, you’re not fully aware of your surroundings, and that’s a big problem when vehicles are zooming all over the place.
Accidentally step in front of a moving car, bus, truck, or even mobility scooter, and you could be looking at an unexpected trip to the hospital or worse. It’s best to put your phone away and concentrate on where you’re walking.
Headphones can pose a similar problem. Sure, listening to your favourite tunes will make a walk more enjoyable but it could also be risky.
Blaring horns, screeching tyres and roaring engines are just some of the alarm bells you might not hear because you’re belting out Elvis, Madonna or maybe even the Baby Shark Dance song. Noise cancelling headphones only make it worse.
For drivers, there are plenty of potential distractions in vehicles like stereos, mobile phones, screaming kids and excited pets. Even rummaging through the console or glovebox for something can be distracting.
With their focus not completely on the road, an inattentive driver poses a serious threat to pedestrians who, even if they’re doing the right thing, might still be at risk of being hit.
Here, focus is the keyword for all road users. Concentrate on your surroundings and try to always be aware of everyone and everything going on around you.
2. Slip lanes
Walking to work every day, I make my way across a notorious intersection that sometimes looks like a scene out of Mad Max.
You’d think the six-lane highway or major road would pose the greatest challenge. But no, the part of my daily commute I dread most is crossing a slip lane at a set of traffic lights.
Motorists must give way to pedestrians at slip lanes. No ifs, buts, maybes – they must. However, based on anecdotal evidence and daily personal experience, many don’t. They just drive straight through.
Focus is the problem here. Turning motorists are concentrating on traffic while trying to enter a new road and don’t always notice pedestrians waiting to cross, particularly from the left side of the road.
Eye contact is crucial in this situation. If a pedestrian and motorist lock eyes and make a connection, they’ll most likely be aware of each other. Hopefully, this visual acknowledgement will prevent any potential accident. However, pedestrians should always err on the side of caution, just in case.
Pedestrians shouldn’t start crossing the road until the driver has stopped. When they do, give them a friendly wave to say thanks. It never hurts to be polite and courteous to fellow road users.
When crossing the road, you need to be aware of your surroundings, stick to marked areas and monitor the presence of moving or turning vehicles that may cross your path. However, some crossings have little quirks.
Pedestrians must give way at roundabouts. An exception to this rule is when there’s a formal pedestrian crossing nearby. Roundabouts should never be used as traffic islands, either.
Pedestrians madly dashing across a roundabout when vehicles are moving – possibly in drivers’ blind spots – is a recipe for disaster. Instead, walk down the road and find a safe location to cross.
Blip. Blip. Blip. That’s the sound pedestrians hear when crossing at lights while you wait for the red person to turn green.
But when the beeping increases rapidly signifying you can cross, don’t assume it’s your turn to walk. It might be another crossing at the same intersection.
Too often, pedestrians will step in front of vehicles taking off at the green light. Think of it as a two-step process. When you hear the beeping sound, look up and check the green person is illuminated.
Scramble crossings are mainly found in cities and areas of high pedestrian activity. Adelaide CBD has three – two bookend Rundle Mall at King William St and Pulteney St and the third is located at the intersection of King William, Waymouth and Pirie streets. There is also one in Norwood at the intersection of The Parade and George St.
Traffic is topped on all approaches at these intersections, allowing pedestrians to cross in any direction in an X-formation. This isn’t the time to stop for a quick chat with someone you know or check your mobile phone.
Cross to the other side as quickly and safely as possible, giving yourself plenty of time as the countdown timer ticks down. Don’t make a mad dash across with only seconds remaining and be mindful of fellow pedestrians to avoid collisions.
Ducking, dodging and weaving through busy traffic like you’re playing human Frogger can be a deadly game to play. Unlike the ’80s arcade classic, you don’t get extra lives in the real world. Get hit and it could be game over.
According to the Australian Road Rules, pedestrians must use a crossing if they’re within 20 metres of one. Failing to do so could result in a $53 fine plus a $92 Victims of Crime Levy.
4. Public spaces
Car parks, shopping centres and service stations are major conflict points. People walking and vehicles are coming and going in all directions, all at different speeds. Pedestrians and motorists can easily become distracted in car parks.
Road etiquette plays a crucial role in busy environments, especially since the road rules apply in these spaces. Stick to speed limits, drive with caution, and keep an eye out for other road users.
As a pedestrian you can play your part by doing simple things like walking along footpaths and highlighted crossings. Avoid distractions like mobile phones, headphones and other devices. You should also be aware of moving and reversing vehicles.
5. Shared paths
Pedestrians and cyclists pass each other all the time. Who gives way? Can you ride a bike on the footpath?
It’s legal to ride on footpaths. That said, cyclists and pedestrians both have a duty of care to share the path.
For cyclists, that means not trying to set a world record in the time trial and give fair warning when passing a pedestrian by sounding their bell or horn. According to the Australian Road Rules, cyclists are required to keep left and give way to people walking on shared paths.
Pedestrians should be courteous. That includes being aware of their surroundings, keeping their dog under control and providing a clear space for cyclists to pass. It’s important cyclists and pedestrians look out for each other in this shared space.
E-scooters are a different story altogether. They’re restricted to private property and can’t be used on public roads or spaces. In fact, it’s against the law. If you’re caught riding an e-scooter in public, you could face criminal charges.
The only exception to this is when you hire an e-scooter in Adelaide, Norwood and along the Coast Park path.
A final word
Roads are a shared space. Consequently, everyone is responsible for road safety.
Pedestrians and motorists – in fact, all road users – have a duty of care for each other. Even though the onus isn’t solely on pedestrians, they should always take the necessary precautions to avoid conflict with vehicles.
At the same time, motorists need keep an eye out for other road users, including pedestrians.
Common sense and courtesy are the dynamic duo of accident prevention. It only takes a split-second to change a life forever.