The Law on Jaywalking and Hitchhiking

By Jimmy Singh & Tayla Regan

Jaywalking is generally where you cross the road in unsafe circumstances.

Arguably, crossing a road against a red pedestrian light, or where there is no light, onto oncoming traffic (within 20 meters of a crossing) do so with full appreciation of the risks (which can result in serious consequences), justifying the creation of the offence of jaywalking in NSW.

On the other hand, the offence of jaywalking is considered not just a trivial matter, but a revenue raising exercise.

Is Jaywalking a Revenue Raising Exercise?

It’s reported by Fairfax that more than 10,000 pedestrians were fined across 3 years during a crackdown operation by police between 2013 – 2015.

It’s a traffic infringement to cross the road if you’re within 20 meters of a crossing. However, you are allowed to cross where the pedestrian light is green. Where you have crossed the road on a green pedestrian light, but the light has turned orange, flashing red or becomes red, you are required to get off the road as soon as reasonably possible.

Failing to comply with this rule can result in a fine of $72, or where you challenge it in court and fail, a fine of up to $2,200.

Arguably, there surely must be better use of police resources and taxpayers’ money.

Is it Necessary to Enforce Jaywalking Rules?

The other argument in favour of jaywalking rules, include the serious consequences of jaywalking. Police have defended the police crackdown of jaywalking, by expressing their concerns of jaywalking in circumstances where it results in deaths.

NSW police, in regards to the resources used in the jaywalking crackdown, have said that in 2016, 55 pedestrians have been killed on NSW roads. That’s more than 19% of the total road toll in 2016.

There were 23 fatalities reported this year in 2018 already. There have been numerous occasions where the courts hear cases involving serious road accidents contributed by jaywalking.

T and X Company Pty Ltd v Chivas [2014] NSWCA 235

In 2008, a taxi driver in Sydney was driving through a green set of traffic lights on George St, Sydney. As he approached an intersection, two men who ignored the red pedestrian light ran across the road onto oncoming traffic, missing a collision with the taxi driver.

About 3 seconds after the 2 men ran across the road, another man, Mr. Chivas also ran across the same road, directly in front of the taxi driver. This resulted in the taxi driver hitting Mr. Chivas resulting in the death of Mr. Chivas.

Mr. Chivas’ mother brought court proceedings against the Sydney taxi driver, stating that the taxi driver caused her son’s death. She was seeking damages against the taxi driver for nervous shock.

Mr. Chivas legal team argued that the taxi driver was negligent driving by driving too fast.

The court accepted that the taxi driver was negligent, even though Mr. Chivas was also negligent in jaywalking.

The taxi driver was found to be in breach his duty to take reasonable care with respect to the pedestrians on the roadway. The court found that he should have slowed down on seeing the first 2 pedestrians who crossed the road in front, and before Mr. Chivas stepped onto the roadway.

This was a case of the taxi driver travelling at a speed considered by the court to be excessive in the circumstances. It isn’t a case where the taxi driver was exceeding the speed limit on the road.

However, it was also acknowledged that Mr. Chivas, by stepping onto the road to cross against a red pedestrian light (jaywalking) created a dangerous situation where it gave the taxi driver minimal opportunity to avoid the impact.

The court, however, assessed and evaluated the case on that basis, which included, the fact Mr. Chivas’ conduct posed no danger to anyone other than himself, while the taxi driver was in charge of a machine capable of causing great damage to any human being who got in its way.

In the result, the court found that Mr. Chivas’s unpredictable steps to cross the road against a red pedestrian light, and in the face of oncoming traffic (jaywalking), resulted in the court finding that Mr. Chivas was contributorily negligent at 75%.

The following is a summary of the main NSW laws surrounding jaywalking.

Road Rules on Jaywalking

The NSW Road Rules 2014 are regulations made under the Road Transport Act 2013.

Each of the below traffic rules concerning pedestrians carry an on the spot fine of $72, and a fine of up to $2,200 if you take the matter to court and lose.

Can I Cross a Road?

Regulation 230 of the Road Rules says that, as a pedestrian crossing the road, you must cross by the shortest route, and you must not stay on the road longer than necessary in order to safely cross. Breaching this rule attracts a penalty of up to $2,200 fine.

Can I Cross a Road Where There is No Pedestrian Crossing?

Regulation 234 of the Road Rules attracts a fine of up to $2,200 if you cross the road within 20 metres of a pedestrian crossing or marked foot crossing area which is usually where the traffic lights are located.

You will not be committing this offence if you cross 20 meters away from a pedestrian crossing, or where you cross at the intersection with traffic lights when permitted to do so by the lights.

Can I Cross a Road with Pedestrian Lights?

Regulation 231 of the Road Rules says, that you are not allowed to start crossing the intersection or road where the pedestrian lights are red.

If you had already crossed the road/intersection when the pedestrian light was green, but where those lights turn red while you are still crossing, then you may continue crossing provided you do not stay on the road for longer than necessary to safely cross.

Failing to comply with this rule attracts a penalty of up to $2,200 fine.

Can I Cross a Road with Traffic Lights?

Regulation 232 of the Road Rules attracts a fine of up to $2,200 if you cross a road with traffic lights (that doesn’t have pedestrian lights), where those traffic lights show red or yellow at the time you started crossing.

It is a defence to this offence if you started crossing where the traffic light is green, flashing yellow, or where there is no traffic light showing.

It’s not an offence where the light changes to red while you are crossing, provided you do not stay on the road longer than necessary to safely cross.

Is it Illegal for a Pedestrian to Hitchhike, Clean Vehicles or Sell on a Road?

Regulation 236 of the Road Rules attracts a fine of up to $2,200 in any one of the following situations where a pedestrian:

  1. Causes a traffic hazard by moving into the path of a driver;
  2. Unreasonably obstructs the path of another driver or pedestrian (this does not include a situation where a pedestrian travels more slowly that other pedestrians);
  3. Is on a road to hitchhike, display ads, sell things, or wash or clean vehicles or windscreens of vehicles.

Is it Illegal to Get into a Moving Vehicle?

Regulation 237 of the Road Rules attracts a fine of up to $2,200 if you, as a pedestrian get into a moving vehicle, unless:

  • The vehicle is travelling at a speed of no more than 5 km per hour, and
  • The pedestrian is engaged in the door to door delivery or collection of goods, or in the collection of garbage and is required to get in and out of a vehicle at frequent intervals.

Is it Illegal to Get Off or Out of a Moving Vehicle?

Regulation 269 of the Road Rules attracts a fine of up to $2,200 if you get off or out of a moving vehicle, unless you are engaged in the door-to-door delivery or collection of garbage, where the vehicle is travelling no more than 5km per hour.

See our character reference for court NSW template for some guidance on how to prepare for court in the event you take your case to court, and want to avoid a conviction for these offences.

As a specialist defence solicitor, our office of experienced lawyers are available 24/7 to answer any of your questions arising from this article.

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