Australia needs to crack down on distracted pedestrians with tougher rules and big fines, says a peak advocacy group.
The Pedestrian Council of Australia (PCA) has called for pedestrians not paying attention when crossing the road to be slapped with a hefty $200 fine in a bid to improve safety outcomes on Australian roads.
PCA chairman Harold Scruby told Starts at 60: “We are calling for this much tougher legislation… a specific offence of [crossing the] road while distracted.”
If successful, the penalties could extend to people using their mobiles or wearing headphones, even if they’re crossing on a green signal.
The call comes as the number of pedestrians killed in crashes around the country continues to rise. Between October 2017-18, there were 1,185 deaths on the road and 174 of those were pedestrians. That’s up from 161 the previous year.
Scruby wants to see authorities cracking down on pedestrians who ignore traffic lights and use the roads unsafely and says tougher legislation will encourage pedestrians to pay more attention while crossing the road.
A 2017 report into the cost of road trauma in Australia found crashes are costing the country about $30 billion a year. Scruby says a change in pedestrian road rules would help reduce that cost.
The PCA also wants the speed limit in CBDs slashed to 30 kilometres per hour, rather than 40km/h, increased crossing times for pedestrians, countdown timers fitted to traffic lights and scrambled crossings to be introduced, which would allow pedestrians to walk diagonally.
While other states are yet to address the call, Queensland’s Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said the state government was not looking to introduce new fines for distracted pedestrians.
“We aren’t looking at introducing new fines for pedestrians who cross the road while distracted,” he told Starts at 60. “The Queensland Police Service already conducts targeted operations to fine people for jaywalking.”
Under Queensland law, a pedestrian can be fined $52 for jaywalking if they cross the road within 20 metres from a set of traffic lights or a designated crossing or against a red light.
He said resources would be better put towards educating people to avoid distractions on the road, whether they’re drivers, passengers, pedestrians, bike or motorcycle riders.
“We’ve spent $89 million in the past five years on projects to improve pedestrian safety in Queensland.”
Other cities around the world have started to take measures aimed at curbing pedestrian deaths. In 2017 Honolulu, Hawaii, became one of the first cities to ban pedestrians from texting or looking at their phones while crossing the street.