A recent survey has revealed that four in five of us are unable to identify a pelican crossing – how about you?

It’s not only pelican crossings that are causing confusion for us Brits – the survey carried out by Admiral Insurance also uncovered that 85% of drivers and pedestrians didn’t know the difference between a puffin crossing and a toucan crossing.

Such a lack of knowledge may seem ridiculous but it’s actually very serious – a third of pedestrians killed in 2017 were making their way across a pelican crossing at the time. The insurer believes the problem could be linked to both pedestrians and drivers simply not knowing enough – if anything – about the many different crossing types in the UK and how they should be used.

A quarter of motorists also stated they have nearly hit a pedestrian at a crossing with 50% saying the pedestrian was not looking before stepping out on to the road. Most worryingly though, a third of drivers revealed that they simply failed to see the pedestrian in the first place – with 13% confessing the reason they didn’t was because they were too busy looking at their mobile phones while driving.

What’s worrying about these findings is how little both drivers and pedestrians understand about the designated crossings and what the rules are for safely using them. More needs to be done to make sure all road users know what their responsibilities are when it comes to crossing so we can see a reduction in the number of accidents taking place.” – Admiral Insurance

To help ensure you know your crossings inside out (and across), here’s a breakdown of the different types:

General rules for crossings

There are several rules that you must remember:

  1. If you are stuck in traffic, never stop on a crossing even if it is not being used; keep them clear at all times so it can still be used by pedestrians.

  2. Remember that being stuck in traffic can also obscure your view of a crossing up ahead – so pay particular attention; don’t let your concentration wander because you’re bored or frustrated.

  3. Make sure you give pedestrians the time they need to cross; don’t rev your engine, allow your car to creep forward or toot your horn.

What is a zebra crossing?

These feature a series of white stripes that echo the markings on the coat of a zebra. When approaching, keep an eye for potential pedestrians who want to cross – and especially those who are walking towards a zebra crossing and may not be paying attention to vehicles on the road.

Remember that you must come to a halt if someone does want to cross so be prepared to slow down and stop if and when required – and be extra wary of stopping distances if you’re driving in wet or icy conditions.

Finally, never flash your lights or honk your horn to encourage a pedestrian to cross – there could be a vehicle coming the other way who isn’t concentrating (because they’re too busy texting).

What is a pelican crossing?

These are signal-controlled crossings with traffic lights; when the light is red, stop and wait for the flashing amber light. If it shows and there is still a pedestrian on the crossing, you must remain stopped. If there are no pedestrians when the amber light is flashing, then you may move off – but remaining aware at all times that a pedestrian may well decide to make a last second dash for it!

Remember, you must also give way to a pedestrian even if the light moves from flashing amber to green – they may be someone with a mobility issue who requires the extra time to make their way safely across.

Final important point – there are crossings that can have a central island between the two lanes; you must wait for all pedestrians to make their way across even if they’re coming from the other side of the island.

What are puffin, toucan and pegasus crossings?

Unlike pelican crossings which have a predetermined timer for pedestrians to cross, puffin crossings have sensors that can detect pedestrians in the waiting area and also crossing the road; the lights will only change to green once the pedestrians have crossed the road. Toucan crossings are designed to let pedestrians and cyclists cross the road together while pegasus crossings are used to allow riders to safely cross the road with their horses.

What is a ‘staggered’ pelican, puffin or toucan crossing?

As above – but with one key difference; there is a crossing on each side of a central island that don’t line up with each other. It means pedestrians must activate each crossing independently. However, do bear in mind, pedestrians may not know the rules and think they can keep walking – so be extra cautious.

Zebra crossing © Josephenus P. Riley

Pelican crossing © Albert Bridge

Pegasus Crossing © Darren Meacher