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What are zebra crossings?
A zebra crossing is a pedestrian crossing characterised by black and white road markings that run from one side of the road to the other. You can find the crossing in urban areas such as high streets, on busy roads and near schools and hospitals. They’re essential to keeping pedestrians safe and zebra crossings can be found all over the UK. They were first introduced in the 1930’s and road markings were added to the crossing in the 1940’s.
How to spot a zebra crossing
Zebra crossings are the most recognised crossing in the UK. They are painted in black and white stripes, similar to that of a zebra hence the name, two yellow raised beacons appear on either side of crossing to help motorists spot the crossing in good time and they are straddled with zigzag lines before and after the crossing to warn motorists of their presence. You will also be made aware of a zebra crossing when you see the following sign;
Zebra crossing penalties and fines
It is illegal to not stop at a zebra crossing if a pedestrian is at or on the crossing. If you fail to stop you are liable to pay a fine of £100 and incur 3 penalty points on your driver’s license. If the zebra crossing is close to a school, manned by a school crossing patrol and you fail to stop, you face a fine of up to £2000 and a possible disqualification depending on how flagrant your violation is.
Zebra crossing with an island
In some cases you will find zebra crossings with an island in between the road. Each section should be treated as a separate crossing and vehicles do not have to stop if pedestrians are on the other side of the road, but have yet to reach the island. Once a pedestrian has reached the island, vehicles on the side the road the individual intends to cross are now required to stop as normal.
Can cyclists use the zebra crossing
The highway code states that cyclists need to dismount to use a zebra crossing, however in many areas, cyclists are still riding across this particular crossing. There have been a number of studies which have analysed whether or not it is safe and efficient to allow cyclists to share a zebra crossing with pedestrians – a shared zebra crossing is known as a tiger crossing – and in some cases the number of accidents and serious incidents involving cyclists riding across zebra crossings is so low, it makes economic sense to officially allow cyclists to use the crossing, instead of converting the crossing into a toucan crossing.
Benefits of zebra crossings
Cheap to install
Compared to either a puffin, pelican or toucan crossing, zebra crossing are comparatively cheaper to install and maintain, making them a viable option for cash strapped local councils.
Reduced waiting time
These crossing also reduce average journey times for all road users, as the crossing is only used when a pedestrian is ready to cross. Pedestrians do not have to wait for lights to change as vehicles are required to give way as soon as they are ready to cross the road, while vehicles are not required to wait if the crossing is empty, as can happen on pelican and puffin crossings.
They’re easier to spot
Due to the prominent striped paintwork, the raised beacons and zigzag markings, motorists can find it easier to spot the crossing, allowing them to slow down in the good time.
Criticisms of zebra crossing
Motorists do not understand the rules
More and more motorists are ignoring the rules of these crossings and choosing not to give way to pedestrians, which is dangerous if pedestrians are assuming that all vehicles will stop as the enter the crossing.
High number of accidents
Each year there are a number of serious incidents at these crossings and compared to the other pedestrian crossings, zebra crossings have a worse safety record. Pedestrians crossing before vehicles have stopped and vehicles not respecting the rules, are the two main causes of accidents on this type of crossing.
Zebra crossing rules
- Always give way to pedestrians on the crossing
- In queuing traffic make sure the crossing is clear
- Do not park or wait on the zigzag lines
- Do not wave or gesture pedestrians across as this could lead to an accident
How to safely deal with zebra crossings
You should approach a zebra crossing with caution. You need to be pay attention to the road and look out for the yellow beacons as early as possible. As the crossing is uncontrolled and there are no traffic lights, it is possible to look beyond the crossing and fail to stop for pedestrians waiting to cross the road. If you do so on your driving test you will fail automatically and if done while you hold a license, you face a fine and 3 penalty points too. Once you have located the crossing, start to slow down in good time using the MSM driving routine and the make sure you check to see if there are any cyclists or other vehicles attempting to overtake you as you come to a stop.