Road safety experts have backed a judge’s call for ‘jaywalking’ to be made illegal, to crack down on pedestrians dangerously or haphazardly crossing roads.
“It should be introduced instantly,” Malta Road Safety Council chairman Pierre Vella told the Times of Malta.
“Many people just cross the road at the most convenient spot, even when there is a zebra crossing a few metres away. But as a pedestrian you are still a road user, and you are not exempt from the rules of the road.”
Jaywalking – crossing the road in an unsafe manner – is illegal in many countries but not in Malta, although the Highway Code says pedestrians should not cross the road at any other point where there is a subway or pedestrian crossing within 50 metres.
Mr Vella said, however, that as the Highway Code was not backed up by any legal notice, these regulations were not directly enforceable, an issue the road safety council had highlighted in the past.
Pedestrians and drivers both had obligations on the road
Delivering a judgment on Tuesday, Judge Consuelo Scerri Herrera called on legislators to consider the introduction of ‘pedestrian offences’, noting that pedestrians and drivers both had obligations on the road.
“This court suggests that there ought to be sanctions upon those persons who chose to cross the road at a particular point, ignoring a pedestrian crossing or a safer spot along the road,” she said, echoing an earlier judgment in the same case calling for “senseless actions by pedestrians” to be punished by law.
Adrian Galea, director of the Malta Insurance Association, said the judge’s remarks underlined pedestrians’ responsibilities and the need for greater caution from all road users.
Mr Galea said the Highway Code was in “dire need” of updating and agreed that sanctions should be introduced for pedestrians who did not use designated crossing areas.
“It’s selfish and inconsiderate behaviour. We need education, but there also comes a point where people need to be told that if they violate the law, they are going to have to pay for it,” Mr Galea said.
“There is no excuse nowadays: there are stretches of road with three or four crossings and yet people still cross in between.
“Apart from the danger to themselves, there are the consequences of people having to brake suddenly or take measures to prevent an accident which could end up hurting others,” he added.
According to National Statistics Office figures, nearly a third of those who suffered grievous injuries on the road in 2017 were pedestrians.
Jaywalking is an offence, often punished by fines, in several European countries, including France, Italy, Poland and Portugal, which have made it illegal not to use a pedestrian crossing if one is available within 50 or 100 metres, although levels of enforcement vary.