It’s risky being a pedestrian

There’s a new breed of person on the streets these days. They are called Smombies, iWalkers or Petextrians, and you probably know who you are. It’s also becoming riskier to be a pedestrian. Tragically, 71 pedestrians have died in Australia in the 12 months to mid-October 2016, compared to the 2013-15 average of 40.

This year alone, pedestrian deaths are 20% higher than the same time last year, which saw a 50% jump in fatalities since 2014. Between 2005 and 2007 and also between 2012 and 2014, NSW had the highest number of pedestrian deaths in Australia.

A few trends are evident in government figures collected by BITRE:

Over 75s

People over 75 are overrepresented in the stats for deaths and injuries needing hospital treatment. From 2005-14, they were 1.7-3.4 times more likely than the next closest age group to be injured fatally.


In all age groups (except 65 and older) male pedestrians are more than twice as likely as female pedestrians to be fatally injured. Every year from 2008 to 2014, male pedestrians died at over double the rate of females.


Perhaps surprisingly, between 2005 and 2014, children aged 16 and under had the lowest pedestrian death rate. One reason may be because 50-63% of kids never walk or bicycle to school. In Australia, there was a 42% decline between 1971 and 2013 in students travelling to school every day under their own steam.


More than 60% of fatal pedestrian crashes occur in 50 or 60kmh areas. Between 2009-2013, there were nearly 2.5 times more deaths at non-intersections than intersections.


Pedestrian crashes are most likely on weekday evenings and in the early hours of weekends while Tuesdays have the lowest number of pedestrian deaths.

Type of vehicle

Three quarters of fatal crashes involve passenger cars or light commercial vehicles, but buses, cycles and motorbikes were involved in only 5% of cases.

At fault

Research around the world shows pedestrians who are fatally injured or hospitalised are frequently crossing the road illegally or at fault in some way.

Road rules

Australian Road Rules state pedestrian rules also apply to people on skateboards, rollerblades or a low powered scooter or wheelchair.

One rule says a pedestrian must not cross a road within 20 metres of a marked crossing in NSW, or they are fined $72. A crackdown on jaywalking in October 2016 in Sydney CBD, Botany Bay, Blacktown, Holroyd, Hurstville, Rose Bay and Sutherland saw 1,443 pedestrians fined – on only one day.

The rules say drivers have to give way to pedestrians, even when they are crossing outside a marked crossing zone.

In the end, pedestrians are still responsible for their own safety. In most cases, this involves listening, looking up and looking around. Or look right, look left, look right again. While Pokemon Go may be a compelling game for some, road safety is not.

Do you think you know all the road rules?

Corrina Baird

Writer and expert

Corrina used to lend her car to her kids and discovered first hand what Ls, Ps and demerits mean for greenslips. After 20 years of writing and research in financial services, she’s an expert in the NSW CTP scheme. Read more about Corrina

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