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

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

Photo: SSR Resource Centre

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!

Cheers Lifehacker

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? Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our contact form.

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