When the Zebra Suddenly Rears Up

From Great Britain to Japan: the zebra crossing has made it far. But not everywhere can a pedestrian rely on a vehicle really stopping.

In Japan, passers-by are only allowed to march with priority on the zebra crossing when a traffic light switches to green.

In Japan, pedestrians are only allowed to walk with priority on the zebra crossing when a traffic light turns green. Photo: Fotolia – Jan Becke

In Morocco’s capital Rabat and in the metropolises of Casablanca and Marrakech, according to the Maghreb Post, in December 2017 many pedestrians were astonished when they were stopped by the police after crossing a road. The officers pulled out their ticket folders and imposed fines of between 25 and 50 Moroccan Dirham. The offence of the pedestrians: They had not walked over the nearby crossings. That zebra crossings are to be taken seriously was new to the Moroccans, like so many in the world.

There are places where zebra crossings seem to guarantee that a car won’t stop. The parking lots of shopping centers are among them – where the hunt for bargains is concerned, zebras, children and other creatures are given little consideration. Similarly in some European holiday resorts and tourist strongholds: With swimming ducks and tiger bathing trunks in their luggage, drivers in Italy, for example, are extremely reluctant to brake when people want to cross the road safely on the conspicuous strip markings. The quintessence of the international handling of zebra crossings: Enter the pedestrian crossing – at your own risk. Abruptly brake at the pedestrian crossing – also at your own risk.

The traffic regulations in many countries come close to the German regulations. Dealing with it less. In Germany, according to Section 26 of the German Road Traffic Regulations (StVO), drivers are expected to slow down, stop and wait as soon as a passerby is on foot or in a wheelchair or patient’s elevator and resolutely heads for a zebra crossing or already crosses it.

Of course not all motorists brake at pedestrian crossings. Photo: Karl-Heinz Augustin

Not all motorists stop at pedestrian crossings. Photo: Karl-Heinz Augustin

If a vehicle is waiting at a crosswalk, it must never be overhauled. Two- and three-figure fines and one point each in Flensburg threaten to be imposed in the event of disregard.

“It is irritating that the signs on pedestrian crossings in Europe look the same almost everywhere, although there are big differences in the behaviour of drivers,” says DEKRA accident researcher Stefanie Ritter. No matter where: drivers should slow down on zebra crossings, make eye contact and wait if necessary.

“Beatles” Zebra Crossing with Extra Protective Strip

By the way, the zebra crossing has existed in Germany for more than 65 years. The United Nations ended their conference on road and automobile traffic in autumn 1949 with the signing of an agreement on road traffic and a protocol on road traffic signs, including the pedestrian crossing. Ratification by the national parliaments for the 17 and now 120 states concerned followed over the years. Partly after the first zebras crossed on the roads, this was the case in Germany in 1952.

The first crossings in Great Britain were blue-yellow, before they became the white-black striped “Zebra Crossing” – the nickname given to them by ex-premier James Callaghan. In the birthplace of the “Zebra Crossings”, not only motorists, but even pedestrians stop at the “Beatles” zebra crossing, which can be seen on the cover of the album Abbey Road – to take pictures: That’s why an extra protective strip had to be set up there.

600 Euro Fine in Italy

In Italy, between the Riviera and the Adriatic, the obligation to stop has only been in force since 2010 and costs those who do not respect the rule and are caught 600 Euros in fines. A driving instructor continues to warn on his website: “Unlike in Germany, Italy does not pay attention to zebra crossings. For this reason you should never brake abruptly at these, since this may surprise the following traffic and can lead easily to rear-end collisions.

“Wow, motor vehicles always stop for pedestrians here, completely without zebra crossings”, Germans who had emigrated to Canada reported enthusiastically to their old homeland a few years ago. In Austria, passers-by rush over zebra crossings in accordance with the rules. However, if a pedestrian has to jump back in a hurry because a car does not stop clearly, the offence costs the driver more than 2,000 Euros.

In Britain, the crosswalk was invented. Photo: Alexander Berg

The zebra crossing was invented in Great Britain. Photo: Alexander Berg

Preventing Accidents with Optical 3D Animations

In Finland and Japan, passers-by are only allowed to walk along the zebra crossing with priority when the traffic lights turn green. In China, smart zebra crossings can now be seen that recognize people and shorten their waiting times for green traffic lights.

And when the zebra suddenly rears up, it has a special effect. Iceland, China, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, India and the USA are experimenting with optical, graphic 3D animations to reduce the number of accidents at pedestrian crossings. And successfully so.

With 3D images, China, Iceland and Spain, for example, point drivers and pedestrians on an overpass. Photo: Fotolia - artfocus

With 3D images, China, Iceland and Spain, for example, point out a crosswalk to drivers and pedestrians. Photo: Fotolia – artfocus

Angry scenes take place time and again in Poland, where one zebra crossing seems to connect to the next. Drivers have priority there: when cars and trucks approach, pedestrians should not enter the protection zone. Trucks and the like only have to stop when they are already on the zebra crossing. The situation is similar in Denmark, where a driver who stops as a precaution can even be prosecuted for “unjustified braking”.

In Denmark, it is only advisable for motorists to brake at a crosswalk if there are already pedestrians on it. Photo: Matthias Rathmann

In Denmark, it is only advisable for motorists to stop at a crosswalk when pedestrians are already walking on it. Photo: Matthias Rathmann

By the way: cyclists in Germany also pay a fine if they do not slowly approach the crosswalk, although a pedestrian obviously wants to cross it. Cyclists themselves only have priority on the zebra crossing when they descend. And: According to Section 25, Paragraph 3 of the German Road Traffic Regulations, road crossers in this country must use pedestrian crossings if they exist. Otherwise fines will be imposed. By the way: as in Morocco.

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