Approaching a pedestrian crossing

What does the Highway Code say?
Sections 191 to 199 cover pedestrian crossings with section 195 on zebra crossings noting:

Zebra crossings
As you approach a zebra crossing:
> look out for pedestrians waiting to cross and be ready to slow down or stop to let them cross.
> you MUST give way when a pedestrian has moved onto a crossing.
> allow more time for stopping on wet or icy roads.
> do not wave or use your horn to invite pedestrians across; this could be dangerous if another vehicle is approaching.
> be aware of pedestrians approaching from the side of the crossing.
A zebra crossing with a central island is two separate crossings.

Weather conditions and stopping distances
In poor weather conditions, the total stopping distance of the average family car is clearly greater. Research suggests braking distances can double in the wet. At 30mph in the dry that is 14m so in the wet 28m plus the thinking distance of 9m - a total of 120ft (37m) or plus 45ft (14m).

Posted: 180125
Whilst zebra crossings have been around for over 60 years in the UK, an article on the petrolprices.com website says a "new study has shown that 80% of drivers and pedestrians don't know how to use them, including who has a legal right of way and what drivers need to do when approaching a crossing." See the article
The article raises a number of important concerns for drivers - both the legal position but also recognising good driving skills also involve reading the road and courtesy.

Who stops when?
The study asked at what point does a vehicle need to stop at a zebra crossing to allow a pedestrian to cross? Of those spoken to, 81% answered incorrectly. The correct answer being that a car needs to come to a stop, to allow a person to cross, only when that pedestrian has already set foot on the zebra crossing. It comes from Rule 195 of the Highway Code. The survey spoke to 2,000 people across the country, and only 19% of them knew the correct answer. The majority - 46% in total - thought that a driver had to stop when a pedestrian was waiting to cross.

Costly mistakes
As well as the potential for accidents, the uncertainties revealed by this study increase the chance of making a mistake that can cost drivers money. For example motorists are risking receiving three points on their license and a fine of £100 for failing to stop when a pedestrian has already stepped onto the crossing.

Anticipation is key to good driving skills
The sections of the Highway Code covering pedestrian crossings have an emphasis on observation and anticipation. With a car travelling at 30mph you are approaching a crossing at 44ft/sec (13.5m/sec) you are faced with a range of pedestrian actions on or near a pedestrian crossing: a pedestrian might have stepped onto the crossing, might be standing on a central island of the crossing, might be in the process of stepping on to the crossing, might be standing at the edge of the crossing waiting to see if it is safe to cross, might be approaching the crossing with body language suggesting they intend crossing, or they might be walking by or standing near the crossing. In any of those cases the pedestrian could within a matter of seconds be on the crossing requiring a driver to stop before reaching the crossing.

What are the stopping distances?
On the RAC website their chart shows the typical stopping distances for an average family car. The thinking distance and the braking distance are shown which together are the total distance. At 30mph the total is 75ft (23m) - typically 6 car lengths. At 40mph that distance is 50% greater at 118ft (36m) or 9 car lengths. With the increasing adoption of "20 is plenty" zones in built up areas it's interesting that at 20mph the distance is 40ft (12m) or 3 car lengths, so substantially less at half that at 30mph. RAC website
Where a driver either does not see a pedestrian or believes they are not about to cross, at 30mph the time from where the driver could have begun braking to their reaching the crossing is only 1.7 seconds! Many careful drivers recognise good driving skills also involve reading the road and courtesy so tend to anticipate that a pedestrian standing at the edge of a crossing will want to cross and so slow and halt to let them go.

The concerns covered by the petrolprices.com article help to explain why there are some 20 collisions a day involving pedestrians on crossings around the UK - amounting to some 7,000 incidents a year. Other problems contributing to concerns over the use of pedestrian crossings include pedestrians being distracted by talking on their smartphones, listening to music or even checking social media as they walk up to and on to a pedestrian crossing.