Picture courtesy of Shirokazan, via Flickr Creative Commons.

When first learning to drive, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with all of the rules, guidelines, and techniques that go into operating a motor vehicle. But once you educate yourself on all that you need to know about driving, including the different pedestrian crossings that you will come across, your confidence will help you become a safe and efficient driver. Read on to learn about traffic light sequences, different pedestrian crossings and how to navigate your way through them all without becoming overwhelmed.

Traffic Light Sequence

While learning to drive and once you have your licence, you will certainly come across countless traffic lights. Knowing how they operate can make you a safer and more efficient driver. Different lights mean different things of course and while the concept is simple, here’s a basic breakdown of a traffic light sequence.

  • Red traffic light: You must stop just behind the white stop line if the traffic light is red. Crossing over the line ever so slightly could result in failing your driving test or 3 penalty points and a fine, thanks to traffic light cameras.
  • Red and amber traffic lights: With this light combination, you must still stop but you should be prepared for the light to turn green. Keep in mind that you must not pass through the intersection until the green light has been illuminated.
  • Green traffic light: Green means go! Always look before proceeding though to make sure that there are no pedestrians or other cars in the way.
  • Amber traffic light: If the amber light is continuously illuminated (not flashing), be prepared to stop. Driving through an amber light is only acceptable if you have already crossed over the stop line as it changes or if stopping is dangerous (bad weather, higher chance of an accident).

When traffic lights are situated above pedestrian crossings, the light sequence can get a bit more complicated. As long as you have an idea of what to expect at each different type of crossing, you should have no problem passing your driver’s test and becoming a safe driver.

Zebra Crossing

A zebra crossing is easy to spot because of its black and white strips that form a path across a road. These crossings do not have traffic lights. Pedestrians crossing at a zebra crossing should give you plenty of time to see them as you must stop to let them cross. This is a very common road crossing that you will quickly become acquainted with.

Zebra Crossing Lights

As mentioned, there are no traffic lights at a zebra crossing but they are easy to spot because of the black and white poles with flashing yellow lights on both sides of the marked crossing. This makes zebra crossings easy to see, even during inclement weather and at night.

Pelican Crossing

A pelican crossing is similar to the zebra except that pedestrians are signalled to cross by a signal or pelican crossing lights. They are found at intersections with traffic lights. These are more common in heavily populated areas.

Pelican Crossing Lights

When the button is pressed by a pedestrian at a pelican crossing, the traffic light will shortly change from green to amber and then to red. After a few moments, you will notice that the traffic light is flashing amber, which signals that motorists are allowed to proceed as long as the crossing is clear. The light will eventually turn back to green.

When approaching a pelican crossing, take care to observe your surroundings. For example, be prepared to slow down when approaching these crossings in case the light changes and pedestrians are signalled to cross. Keep in mind that when the amber light is flashing, you are required to give way. Pedestrians are less likely to check for oncoming traffic at a pelican crossing because of the signals.

Toucan Crossing

At a toucan crossing, both pedestrians and cyclists can safely cross. If you keep asking, “What is a toucan crossing?” here’s a little hint. To remember this, think of toucan crossing as “two can” cross. You will normally come across this type of crossing near a park or cycle lanes.

Toucan Crossing Light Sequence

The amber flashing light feature is not used at a toucan crossing and traffic lights operate like normal.

Puffin Crossing

A puffin crossing is similar to a pelican crossing but a little more advanced thanks to sensors located on top of the traffic lights. These sensors can hold the red traffic light longer as needed if it senses that pedestrians are waiting or already crossing.

Puffin Crossing Light Sequence

Although similar to a pelican crossing, puffin crossing lights do not utilize the flashing amber signal. They operate just like a normal traffic light. It’s possible that a pedestrian will cross at a strange angle and not trigger the sensor so always be on the lookout for pedestrians at a puffin crossing.

Pegasus Crossing

Pegasus crossings are also known as equestrian crossings and operate similar to toucan crossings. They allow horse riders to cross safely. At a Pegasus crossing, there is no flashing amber light and the traffic lights will operate like normal.

Children Crossing Sign

This is a very important pedestrian sign to know. When approaching a children crossing sign, or school crossing, always stop when a school crossing patrol officer steps into the road. You might notice a flashing amber signal when approaching a school crossing. Always drive slowly until you have passed the crossing and use extreme caution as children can be unpredictable.

When it comes to learning all the different pedestrian crossings, just remember that these crossings are designed to be a safe place for pedestrians to cross. Always approach a pedestrian crossing sign with safety in mind. Never park on a crossing or stop on top of the lines. Also, avoid waving on a pedestrian as other drivers might not stop for them. Follow the rules of the road and know the