Ask LH: Can You Really Get Fined For ‘Jaywalking’ In Australia?

Ask LH: Can You Really Get Fined For ‘Jaywalking’ In Australia?
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Dear Lifehacker, I was reading recently about a guy who crossed the road (not at an intersection) in front of a police car and they fined him for jaywalking. I was wondering what exactly constitutes jaywalking in each state? Thanks, J. Walker

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Dear JW,

There is no specific ‘jaywalking’ offence in Australia. However, the phrase is often used informally to describe pedestrians who cross the road in a manner that is not permitted by law. All states and territories have the same basic rules and regulations when it comes to pedestrian safety.

Traffic infractions that are sometimes classed as ‘jaywalking’ include ignoring red pedestrian lights, attempting to cross when traffic lights are green, crossing a road diagonally (unless permitted) and failing to use a zebra crossing that is within 20 metres of your location.

You can also get booked if you fail to show reasonable regard for other road users, such as walking in the middle of a breakdown lane. In areas where there are no pedestrian lights, zebra crossings or signposted instructions, a pedestrian must cross a road by the shortest and safest route possible. For most of these offenses, the on-the-spot fine is around $70. There is no penalty on your license.

Apart from occasional police crackdowns in high-risk areas, these rules aren’t enforced with much regularity. The pedestrian you read about must have been breaking the rules pretty blatantly: my guess is he either ignored a nearby pedestrian crossing or bolted to beat oncoming traffic. Either that, or the cop was a misanthrope.

With that said, you shouldn’t get into the mindset that jaywalking laws were invented to waste your time — like the vast majority of road rules, it’s all about increasing civilian safety. Sometimes patience is a virtue!


See also: Bikes On Footpaths: When Is It Lawful? | The Most Infuriating Traffic Fines In Existence | Can You Get Fined For Tooting Your Car Horn?

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  • I wonder if the fine would be more if I stuff my face with maccas while Jwalking…(just stirring Dman)

    • For those who don’t know, igame thinks it’s perfectly fine to eat Maccas while driving. Enough said.

      • It’s clearly a higher risk activity than driving without eating but I definitely do it.

        The trick is to come up with a one handed eating system. Personally I use the box to angle the burger for optimum blind holding.

  • “by the shortest and safest route possible” may sometimes be a rather circuitous route given quantity and behaviour of traffic on streets with very widely spaced pedestrian crossings.

      • That’s what I’m referring to as well, basically having to weave around stalled to moving traffic because the closest pedestrian crossing is hundreds of metres away, and the stop lights effectively only work for one direction of traffic flow at a time. Examples are some of the long streets in Alexandria (Sydney) where semi-industrial estates have given way to shops and apartments, but the street crossings have not been increased to match the amount of foot traffic.

  • I actually though that there was an additional rule which stated that you’re not allowed to cross within 100m of a traffic light intersection?

  • My Dad was booked for a similar ‘jaywalking’ offence. He probably didn’t endear himself to the officer by expressing his displeasure. Took it to court and got a QC friend of his to represent him. The judge had a chuckle and let him off.

  • take it to court and ask the prosecution if the injured party can be produced or come forward. they cant! its a victim less crime, and can be thrown out of a court with the right strategy

    • yeah, i want to see you try that. Pseudo-legal theories such as “Freeman on the land” won’t get you out of a fine, and/or contempt of court charges.

      • Yeah I have a law degree and used to be involved in the libertarian community. Most people were sensible normal people but man there were some kooks with some really strange legal beliefs.

        “I am a sovereign citizen of the country of me! I do not recognise your corporation known as the government!”

        Funnily enough you could try arguing that what you did was not a risky thing and you might be lucky. If you go in and say ‘you must demonstrate an injured party or this ticket must not stand’ though the judge is going to throw the book at you out of sheer disgust.

  • They’ve been cracking down in Sydney CBD, mainly targeting those crossing while distracted (mp3/mobile phone etc).

  • I’ve been under the general assumption that as long as it’s not within 20 metres of a designated crossing then it’s fine. Honestly if you jaywalk your responsible for anything that happens, so police don’t bother here. (I’ve seen people jaywalk right infront of police before and nothing)

  • Can anyone confirm – I think that interestingly pedestrians, as long as they obey these laws, actually have the right of way at all times? So in theory cars have to slow down or stop for you when crossing as long as you aren’t violating any of these laws.

    • No.
      This idea comes from a poor reading of some pamphlets like juddy linked below, where people read “give way to pedestrians if there is any danger of colliding with them” and think that means always, without recognising that contextually – by being in the pedestrian crossing section – it’s of limited scope. There’s an insurance company-issued pamphlet that even uses the word “always”, but again it’s in reference to pedestrian crossings, not “always, in all contexts”.

      Outside pedestrian crossings (or perhaps explicitly marked shared-use zones), there’s nowhere that a pedestrian can just walk out into traffic and not be breaking the law. But, just because they’re breaking the law, doesn’t mean drivers aren’t obliged to (attempt to) avoid running them over. Drivers must brake: yes. Pedestrians have right of way: no.

      • Exactly. All that means is you can’t kill people with your car just because they were breaking the law. You still have a duty to attempt to not kill someone.

      • drivers MUST give way to pedestrians crossing slip lane ( separate left turning lane), to pedestrians when turning at an intersection or reversing. to pedestrians on the footpath when entering or exiting drive way or car park. to pedestrians crossing an terminating road while walking along an ongoing road.
        also a pedestrian can legally cross a road when more then 20 m. away from traffic light or pedestrian crossing (as long as other road users are not endangered) !

    • Pedestrians have right of way no matter what.

      You have no right to run over those kids because they ran out between cars. You also don’t really have a comeback if you run over someone who has crossed illegally.

      The law is quite clear: You must always be in full control of your car and you must always be travelling at a speed that allows you to stop if necessary.

      You might not need to defend a law suit from killing that 6 year old who crossed illegally, but you will be done for manslaughter.

  • jaywalking laws were invented …. like the vast majority of road rules, it’s all about increasing civilian safety
    The original reason and outcome are slightly different. Jaywalking laws were invented to keep the roads free of pedestrians so cars could travel faster. As a result it’s not safe to Jaywalk or walk on the road generally.

  • I’ve seen a few areas get common jaywalking crackdowns. The crossroad between Brunswick and Wickham St in the Valley (Brisbane) is pretty notorious for idiot assholes jogging and sometimes even blatantly slow-walking in the middle of traffic, no matter how fast or slow it may be going.

    Another spot I recall was outside the Centro in Lutwyche. Pretty wide road, 4 lanes. Pedestrians used to ignore the lights quite a bit, trying to beat the traffic, because the change was so fucking slow.

    I remember standing at the intersection one day and seeing the ticket-issuing cop standing there. Traffic was slow and there was probably about a solid minute where there was absolutely nothing either way and I could’ve crossed. The cop was lookin’ at me funny. He’d look one direction for traffic, then the other, then back to me, with an arched eyebrow. I kinda wanted to yell across the street, “You’re right there! I can SEE you! Not happening!”

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