How not to fail on pedestrian crossings

When driving, you will encounter pedestrians in different situations. Knowing how to deal with them safely is one of the many skills needed to be a safe driver and pass your driving test. There are different types of pedestrian crossings and each one has it's own rules. Understanding those rules could be the difference between passing or failing a test or worse, running someone over.

Let's start with the most common one.

Zebra crossing

When it comes to dealing with zebra crossings, the first thing you should do is realise that you are approaching a zebra crossing. Without realising there is s crossing you will not be able to slow down or react in time should a pedestrian cross the road.

Identifying a zebra crossing

Zebra crossings have the distinctive black and white stripes on the floor, hence the name zebra. Unfortunately you won't always see these lines until it is too late, especially if you are unfamiliar with the area you are driving in.

For some harder to see zebra crossings you will get a warning sign telling you that you are approaching a

pedestrian crossing.

Even if you miss the warning sign, there are orange flashing lights (Also known as Belisha beacons) on each side of the crossing which can be seen from far away. These are also there to warn you that you are approaching a zebra crossing.

There are also zig zag lines on the floor leading to the zebra crossing just in case you have missed the flashing beacons.

What should I do one I have seen the flashing beacons?

Once you have seen the beacons you need to start thinking about your speed.

Is your speed slow enough should a pedestrian cross on that crossing?

If it is not, you need to check all your mirrors so you can see who is around you just in case you need to slow down.

Once you have checked your mirrors and slowed down slightly, you need to start scanning for pedestrians that are on the crossing, waiting to cross or walking towards the crossing.

What should I do if someone is crossing already?

You must slow down and let them cross all the way. If they are still crossing once you have reached the crossing you must stop the car and let them cross.

What should I do if someone is waiting to cross?

Once someone is waiting to cross at a zebra crossing you much stop for them and let them cross as they have priority. You have to be very careful with this situation as a lot of pedestrians will assume that you have seen and start crossing even before you stop.

Useful Tip:

A common mistake some learners make is thinking that because the pedestrian is just waiting there, they must not want to cross. This is not the case, some pedestrians won't start crossing until you have come to a full stop for safety reasons.

How do I know that a pedestrian is waiting to cross the road?

You will get occasions where people are just hanging around by a zebra crossing with no intention of crossing. You will not know this until you get closer. The safest thing to do is to stop.

Try to make eye contact with the pedestrian, if they still don't cross then proceed carefully checking both sides of the crossing for any other people that may have started to cross.

What do I do if I see people walking towards the crossing?

When approaching a crossing, you need to keep an eye on people that are walking towards the crossing as they may cross it once you get there. You must check both sides.

The best thing to do is to to start slowing down. If you are going to be by the crossing at the same time as the pedestrian gets there then you should assume they will cross and slow down appropriately.

If they don't cross you can proceed carefully. If they do cross then you can stop smoothly as you will already be slowing down in preparation for the stop.

Useful Tip:

A common mistake made by learners is assuming that someone is not going to cross. When the pedestrian turns to cross they then have to slam the brakes because the speed they were going was too fast for the to stop smoothly.

This will cause issues for any drivers following behind you who may not expect or anticipate that you will brake that sharply.

Are there different types of zebra crossings?

The main thing that makes zebra crossings different from one another is that some have islands in the middle of them.

When they have islands, you can treat these crossings as two separate crossing. Meaning that if you are approaching a crossing and there is someone waiting to cross on the other side of the road, you do not have to stop for them.

If they are on the island or walking towards the island in the middle of the road, you must stop for them and let them cross as they are now on your side.

Do I need to use my handbrake when I am waiting for people to cross?

It is not a requirement for the driving test that you use your handbrake as long as the car is secured and not moving backwards or forward uncontrolled.

It is however good practice to use your handbrake especially when stopped for a few seconds for the following reasons:

  • If someone bumps into the back of your car the handbrake will help it to keep it secure and not go onto the pedestrians

  • If you accidentally release your clutch, the handbrake will help to keep it secure

  • If the zebra crossing is on a slight hill, using the handbrake will help with a smooth hill start.

Pelican Crossing

These look like traffic lights. They also have zig zag lines as you approach so that you know you are approaching a pedestrian crossing.

Do I have to stop for people waiting to cross?

Pelican crossings are light controlled. This means that when the light is green you do not have to stop unless someone is already on the road crossing.

You must stop by the stop line, not by the dotted line as some learners seem to think.

How to prepare for pelican crossing.

A lot of pelican crossings will have a button that pedestrians can press when they want to cross. If you see somebody waiting, assume that they have pressed the button so the lights could change to red any time.

Check your mirrors and start to slow down. If it remains green as you get closer then keep driving but if it goes red then you can come to a smooth stop.

Do I have to wait for the green light before I can go?

With pelican crossings, you are allowed to start driving when the amber light is flashing as long as there is no one on the road crossing.

Even if people are waiting by the sides, once it starts to flash you should start moving so that pedestrians don't start to cross.

If the light changes to flashing orange as you approach, you should keep the car moving if the crossing is clear.

Puffin crossings

Puffin crossings have sensors on them that detect when there are pedestrians walking across them. The lights will stay red until all the pedestrians are clear.

With these types of crossing you must wait for the light to be green before driving on again.

Toucan crossings

Toucan crossings allow cyclists to cross the road with pedestrians. They are light controlled and you should approach them in the same way as the others. You should only go if the light is green for you.

Equestrian crossings

These allow for horses to cross. They are not as common as the others especially in urban areas. When dealing with these, it is important that you remember how to drive when near horses.

Horses can be startled easily so drive off smoothly avoiding heavy revving or loud noises.

Unofficial crossings

These are places where pedestrians can cross once motorists have gone past. They will usually be an island but no other markings on the floor.

On these types of crossings motorists have priority. The pedestrian must wait until the road is clear before crossing.

If a pedestrian is waiting to cross here you may not stop for them unless they step in the road. Try not to slow down too much as you approach them as this may be a signal to them that you are slowing down to let them cross.


In conclusion, when dealing with pedestrian crossings, being alert and identifying them early will make them a lot easier to deal with.

Driving at the appropriate speed is also important. With enough practice anyone can handle all types of pedestrian crossings confidently and most importantly, safely.

I hope you found this useful. Please check out some of the other posts which are full of useful advice about driving.

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