How To Deal With Zebra & Pedestrian Crossings

Last Updated: 10/04/2021

A pedestrian crossing also known as a ‘zebra crossing’ is one of the most recognisable road markings in the UK and have been an ever-present on our streets since 1949.

While they are now declining in number, there are still thousands of them around so it’s vital that you know how to deal with them when driving.

Zebra crossings are marked as black and white stripes which stretch across the road.

They will be preceded by some textured paving next to the crossing.

This paving help partially-sighted pedestrians to identify the crossings so that they can cross over the road safely, with the bold black and white stripes guiding them as well as being clear markers for drivers.

Historically, motorists were also told to stop and give way to pedestrians once they have placed a foot on the crossing but as traffic volume and speed increases, the recommendations have also been modified.

During a driving test, it is highly likely that the examiner will try and pick a route that passes as many types of pedestrian crossings as possible to test your handling of each situation.

A zebra crossing is usually one of the first they will choose for you to drive through.

So, it’s imperative that you take the time to learn the process for approaching a zebra crossing which will keep pedestrians safe and your driving test examiner in your favour.

What You Will Learn

In this guide, we will take you through the process of how to properly and safely approach a zebra crossing.

We will make sure that you’re aware of what the law expects from you and what guidelines pedestrians will be following.

Essentially, regardless of what a pedestrian does, it’s down to you as the driver to ensure everyone’s safety.

This guide will arm you with that information.

As usual, we will set the guide out in to five key areas.

They are:

  • Step-By-Step Guide
  • Video Demonstration
  • Hints & Tips
  • Useful Information
  • Final Thoughts
  • Further Resources

Step-By-Step Guide

  • Approach the zebra crossing with caution and observe the area around the crossing for pedestrians waiting to cross.
  • If everything is clear, proceed as normal but continue to be on the look-out for pedestrians who may be running to cross.
  • If there are pedestrians waiting to cross, check your mirrors. When safe to do so, begin to slow down well in advance of the zebra crossing.
  • The earlier you begin to brake the better – this gives other motorists warning that you are slowing down.
  • Stop before the white line. Ideally, stop a little short of the white line, especially if you have traffic following you. This gives you a little extra room just in case a vehicle strikes you from behind.
  • Allow the pedestrians to cross the zebra crossing completely.
  • Prepare to set-off again, but before doing so, thoroughly check the surrounding area for pedestrians who may be rushing to cross the road.
  • If it remains clear to do so, proceed over the zebra crossing with caution.
  • If you are on a dual carriageway with a zebra crossing, they will be split in the middle. You should treat them as two separate crossings.

Video Demonstration

Hints & Tips

Zebra crossings are commonly found in residential areas.

They’re not identical though and so this section contains some useful information about what you may find.

Warning Signs:

As you approach a zebra crossing there may well be a sign giving you early notice to beware of the crossing.

The triangle warning sign will be predominantly white with a red border and the graphic of a crossing in the middle.

Upon seeing this sign, begin to slow down.

Raised Zebra Crossings:

Some newer zebra crossings which have been installed in recent years may be on raised humps in the road.

These will be preceded with a sign warning you of this.

Repeated Crossings:

Beware, in residential areas or places near schools, for example, there could be several crossings.

Never Block A Zebra Crossing:

Regardless of where you are or how busy they seem, a zebra crossing should never be blocked by a vehicle.

Always leave them free for people to use.

Poor Condition Crossings:

Beware that many zebra crossings can be faded out and in need of repair or maintenance.

This may make them harder to see.

Always Approach Them In The Same Way:

Some zebra crossings are situated in strange positions where you probably wouldn’t expect them to be.

This includes, for example, on the entrance and exit from roundabouts.

Wherever you find them, you should always approach them in the same way.

As an additional tip, it is important that when you stop at a level crossing that you do not wave or signal pedestrians to cross in front of you.

Crossing should be their decision and they should do so only when they feel safe to do so.

Similarly, it goes without saying that you should never rev your car engine while at a zebra crossing.

This could scare or intimidate pedestrians and potentially cause safety issues if your foot slips.

Useful Information

A zebra crossing is obviously given its name by the distinctive road markings which are used to mark the crossing area.

Every zebra crossing will be accompanied by a flashing amber light; these are called ‘Belisha Beacons’.

They mark the location of the zebra crossing and when the lights are on you must be prepared to stop and give way to any pedestrians who are waiting to cross.

Final Thoughts

Zebra crossings are old hat and have been around for a long time.

They’re almost as synonymous of British roads as the red telephone box is to the high street.

While they were introduced in a different era and are likely to be phased out in the coming years, this is a long way off and so you must take the time to familiarise yourself with driving on them.

As ever, it’s a case of driving with due care and attention and following the steps outlined in this guide.

Do those things and you won’t go far wrong.

Further Resources