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A puffin crossing is a modern type of pedestrian crossing that controls traffic using a set of sensors. They are considered smart crossings as they reduce the number of accidents by holding traffic when a pedestrian is on or at the crossing. They allow traffic to continue if a pedestrian presses the control box and walks away and they are set diagonally on the kerb to allow pedestrians to monitor traffic as they wait.
How do puffin crossings automatically detect pedestrians?
Puffin and pelican crossings can appear quite similar however there is one major difference between the two. Although both crossings are operated by a pedestrian pushing a button on the control box, pelican crossings change colour based on a preset timer, while puffin crossings are controlled by a set of sensors that detect the presence of pedestrians. If the sensors detect a pedestrian is on or at the crossing after the control button is pushed, a red light is displayed to stop the vehicles from progressing, while the pedestrian is shown a green man figure informing them that it is safe to cross the road.
What type of sensors do they use?
Puffin crossings are controlled using a range of sensors. Some crossings are fitted with a heat sensor that controls traffic based on changes in temperature in the area it covers. Kerbside detectors are either mounted above the traffic light or laid out on the ground in the form of a pressure mat. These sensors identify nearby pedestrians and when a pedestrian is detected, the traffic light changes to red to stop approaching vehicles, and thus allow pedestrians to cross the road safely.
Who can use a puffin crossing?
Puffin crossings are designed for all pedestrians, however, they make it much easier for elderly and disabled pedestrians to cross the road. The sensor detects their presence and a red light will continue to show until the pedestrian has safely reached the other side of the crossing. This makes it much easier for individuals with reduced mobility to safely use the crossing. Unlike a toucan crossing, cyclists are not permitted to use this crossing.
Staggered puffin crossings
Some puffin crossings have a central refuge or an island in the middle of the crossing and you are likely to see this on wide roads which are known to be busy.
A staggered crossing should be treated as two separate crossings, therefore if a pedestrian is crossing one side of the road, but has yet to reach the island, vehicles on the other side of the crossing can continue with their journey without the need to stop. Staggered crossings reduce the stress of crossing a busy road, while they also ease the flow of traffic, as vehicles do not have to stop if there are no pedestrians on their side of the crossing or at the central refuge.
Puffin crossing light sequence
Motorists will see the following traffic light sequence at puffin crossings. A red light means stop at the stop line. It’s illegal to drive through a red light at a puffin crossing. The red light is followed by a red light with steady amber light, then finally a green light signalling you to carry on with your journey.
A steady amber light on it is own, warns you to slow down and be prepared to stop, it is not illegal to drive through a steady amber light, however, if a pedestrian is on the crossing and you drive through a steady amber light, you could end up failing your driving test. Pedestrians will see a red figure instructing them to wait and a green man figure when it is safe to proceed, as shown by the image below.
Check out our driving test tips guide for more advice.
Things to be aware of on puffin crossings
No parking on the zigzag lines
Vehicles are not allowed to park or obstruct the zigzag lines found on either side of the crossing as this reduces visibility for pedestrians and can lead to accidents.
Overtaking is not allowed
It is illegal to overtake a vehicle at a puffin crossing. Overtaking close to a crossing is very dangerous, as pedestrians use this area to cross the road and this could lead to a serious accident.
There is no flashing amber light
You need to wait for a green light before you move off when at a puffin crossing, there is no flashing amber light, so you need to wait for the crossing to clear and the lights to go green before continuing your journey.