New research calls for an overhaul of road rules at T-junctions in Australia

This article was originally published in The conversation.

Who must give way when a motorist and pedestrian approach a T-junction?

In newly published research We tested over 1,000 road users’ knowledge of Australia’s road rules.

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We have introduced you to the two scenarios shown below.

When asked who should give way in these scenarios, many road users answered incorrectly. Credit: Browne & Flower 2023

When asked who should give way, the green car or the pedestrian, 37 percent and 39 percent of road users gave the wrong answer in the first and second scenarios.

So what do the Australian Road Traffic Rules say? The answer might surprise you. The rules (particularly rule 353) state:

When a driver turns off the road at an intersection –

  • The driver is obliged to give way to a pedestrian crossing the road […] And
  • The driver is not obliged to give way to a pedestrian crossing the road the driver is leaving.

An apparent source of people’s confusion is the inconsistency between parts (a) and (b) of Rule 353. In fact, it gives pedestrians “the right-of-way only over half an intersection”.

Part (b) is also quite counterintuitive. After all, most people would expect that a stop or give way sign would mean that motorists must stop for both pedestrians and cars.

Changing the rules requiring drivers to give way to pedestrians crossing the road the driver is leaving would create a “general and clear right of way when turning”. This change has already been proposed. However, recent developments speak in favor of such a rule change.

The new British rule H2

The UK recently made the same change to its road traffic rules. At the end of 2021, the UK Highway Code introduced rule H2, which requires drivers at a junction to give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road or from which The driver turns.

The change eliminated inconsistencies and the counterintuitive notion of who needs to give in.

Giving pedestrians a clear right of way also encourages walking. Examples of seemingly insignificant “urban acupuncture” such as these can have long-term quality of life benefits as well as public health and well-being.

Crosswalks have unintended consequences

The second recent development is that local governments around Melbourne have installed crosswalks in prioritized locations – but not all locations – within activity hubs and on routes designated as part of what is known as the main pedestrian network. The purpose was to encourage and enable walking as a mode of transportation, especially since 2020 when the COVID-19 lockdowns meant people were looking for more ways to move around their local area.

There is evidence that such crosswalks improve safety at the intersections where they are installed. Credit: delivered

Crosswalks at T-junctions like the one pictured above are certainly well intentioned and override Rule 353(1)(b) to give pedestrian priority where it would otherwise not exist. There is evidence that such crosswalks improve safety at the intersections where they are installed.

At the same time, however, there is a very real risk that without a rule change, the transitions will inadvertently further impair walkability. This is because if they are installed at some but not all intersections, they can trick people into believing so in the locations where they are located not installed, the driver does not have to give way to a pedestrian crossing the street he is turning onto.

Our researchwhich was the first to address this issue concluded that the risk of this unintended consequence is very real.

A rule change is the best answer

We also interviewed traffic engineers, local government planners and pedestrian experts. A clear majority approved a rule change that would require motorists to give way to pedestrians at a stop or give way sign, which would improve road safety and encourage walking.

It would take some getting used to, but the traffic rules have been changed before.

In 1993 the road rules in Victoria were changed so that vehicles turning left at intersections have the right-of-way before vehicles turning right. It used to be, somewhat counterintuitively, the other way around.

From April 2021, motorists across Australia will have to give cyclists a minimum distance of 1m when overtaking.

Both rule changes were accompanied by public awareness campaigns to ensure the community was aware of them.

Encouraging walking has greater benefits for the community

It would be an important simplification of road traffic rules if motorists approaching and turning at a T-junction from any direction had to give way to pedestrians. And the more the rules are geared towards hikers’ convenience, the more hikers there will be.

Importantly, changes like these can send subtle but powerful social signals that society values ​​walking as a mode of transportation because it reduces pollution and encourages occasional exercise. Such changes can make a small contribution to transforming communities from auto-dominated communities to making everyone, but especially children, the elderly and people with disabilities, feel safer to walk more.

Geoffrey Browne is a postdoctoral fellow at the Melbourne School of Design, University of Melbourne.

Jonathan Flower is a Research Associate at the Center for Transport and Society at the University of the West of England.

“I didn’t know that”: The forgotten traffic rule that could save you big fines

“I didn’t know that”: The forgotten traffic rule that could save you big fines

James Brien

James Brien is a 24ssports U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. James Brien joined 24ssports in 2021 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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