Crossing the line

Q. I am being prosecuted for “failure to accord precedence at a zebra crossing” but I think I am being unfairly treated.

I was in a queue of traffic leading to a zebra crossing. A policeman was calling cars through at times when pedestrians were waiting to cross and at other times stopping the traffic and then beckoning pedestrians across.

When I got to the head of the queue, I wasn’t being called through, but neither were the pedestrians being beckoned on. Just as I moved onto the crossing, someone pushing a bicycle stepped onto the crossing and started shouting at me.

I have now received a summons through the post. What should I do?

A. A driver has an absolute duty in law to “accord precedence” (i.e. give way) to a pedestrian who has stepped onto the black and white stripes of the zebra crossing before the driver’s vehicle or any part of it has come onto that area.

There are three points that arise in your case that suggest you might have a defence.

First, you say that someone pushing a bicycle stepped onto the crossing. If you arrived on the black and white stripes before the pedestrian, then you have a defence.

Secondly, although a pedestrian pushing a bicycle but otherwise walking is still a “pedestrian”, a court has decided in a case some years ago that if the bike was being used as a scooter, so that its owner had one foot on the ground and one foot on a pedal, then the owner would not in law be a “pedestrian” and you would have a defence.

The third prospective defence arises from the role taken by the policeman. The regulations about according precedence to pedestrians do not apply where the crossing is being controlled by a police officer or by a traffic warden. In those circumstances, drivers and pedestrians are obliged to obey the directions of the police officer and can be prosecuted if they fail to do so.

If the bike owner had stepped onto the zebra crossing at a point at which the police officer was calling your vehicle on, then you would have a complete defence.

In this case, the police officer had been indicating which of vehicles or pedestrians had precedence, but for some reason had stopped doing either.

There has been a case in similar circumstances in which the court decided that a temporary lull in the police officer giving directions meant that the crossing was not being controlled and that there should be a conviction, but the court also decided that the driver’s licence would not be endorsed with penalty points because he was misled by the police officer as to what was required.

Much will depend on the finer details and the court’s view of them, particularly as to whether at the crucial point the police officer was controlling the crossing.

Conviction would result in your licence being endorsed with three penalty points and your decision about whether or not to challenge the summons may depend on whether or not you already have points on your licence that would either take you to a 12 points “totting up” disqualification or be near enough to put you at risk of such a disqualification in the future.

Designed by solicitors, tested by barristers and available around the clock, Road Traffic Representation is an online legal system that allows people accused of a motoring offence to get free advice on how the law will be applied in their case, and referral to a telephone helpline and representation by a barrister in court if required. Practising solicitor Martin Langan spent two years designing the system and creating the data repository which allows the software to analyse road traffic offences with the same authority as a solicitor.
www.roadtrafficrepresentation.com

Twitter: martinlangan
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