Based on the statistics published by Liikenneturva (Finnish Road Safety Council), as many as one in ten of those who died and seven percent of those injured in traffic were pedestrians. During the past years, the annual average of deaths was 21 while 360 pedestrians were injured. Among those who died, one in five was on a pedestrian crossing while 60% of the injuries to pedestrians were caused during crossings.
A pedestrian crossing – literally “protected way” in Finnish – should be what the name says. It is a safe and protected place where the pedestrian can cross the road. However, this is not always the case although that is what the legislator was aiming for.
The main focus on the Police controls of pedestrian crossings is on the operation of drivers of motorised vehicles and trams when they are approaching the crossings and at them.
As a premise, these violations committed by the above drivers always meet the criteria of endangering of traffic safety since neglecting the pedestrian crossing rules can typically lead to accidents. The punishment imposed are so-called unit fines, also known as day fines.
In certain situations, the Police can also intervene with minor violations of motorised vehicle or tram drivers by imposing a 100 euro ticket for a traffic violation consisting in the disregard for pedestrian crossing rules if it is found that the driver’s action has not been likely to cause danger to the safety of others.
The controls of pedestrian crossings also focus on cyclists and other non-motorised vehicle drivers if they neglect the pedestrian crossing rules on the roadway, cycling lane or cycle path.
The sanction for the drivers of non-motorised vehicles is often a 40 euro ticket for minor breaches of the rules. The reason for this is that their smaller mass and lower speed makes the violations less likely, in every single situation, to endanger the safety of others.
The Road Traffic Act imposes certain obligations on the driver of a vehicle approaching the pedestrian crossing or already at it. When approaching the pedestrian crossing, extra caution and attention is required. This means that not only the traffic environment but also, and especially, the pedestrian approaching the crossing must be observed closely, trying to anticipate their next moves. The speed must be adjusted accordingly.
Furthermore, there is also an obligation to proceed at a speed which allows the car or tram to stop when the crossing is reached. Other factors impacting the speed include the light conditions, the visibility at the crossing and its vicinity as well as the grip of the road surface. If there are visual obstructions in front of the pedestrian crossing, the driver must slow down or stop before the crossing, if necessary.
The most important pedestrian crossing rule is that the pedestrian already crossing or about to cross the road must be ensured unhindered passage. Free or unhindered passage means that the pedestrians can cross the road without slowing down or increasing their original pace.
The pedestrian walking towards the crossing or clearly waiting for the possibility to cross must be given the chance to use the crossing undisturbedly.
However, the pedestrian also has obligations. The pedestrian crossing the roadway must be cautious as required, considering the distance and speed of the approaching vehicle or tram. The pedestrian must cross the roadway without any undue delay or loitering.
The rules covering pedestrian crossings include a prohibition to pass a vehicle or tram standing in front of a crossing, without first stopping, unless there is a pedestrian island or a free lane between the passing car and the standing car. The rule does not apply if the traffic is directed with lights.
The prohibition to pass refers to passing of a vehicle or tram standing in front of a crossing, without first stopping, if there is no pedestrian island or a free lane between the passing car and the standing car. In the worst case scenario, the driver of a car or tram may be driving along the adjacent lane, without stopping, to pass a car or tram which has expressly stopped there to allow the pedestrian to have unhindered passage on the crossing.
In these situations, the sanction also includes a temporary driving ban because the pedestrian on the crossing has faced a concrete danger.
The pedestrian crossing rules also include the obligation to slow down and, if necessary, to stop before the crossing if there are other visual obstructions, not only the cars or trams passed. These cases complement the main rules.
Any obstructions of visibility to the pedestrian crossing, such as vehicles stopped or parked along the road, snow piles, skips or moving or stopping vehicles on the lane to the opposite direction, obligate the driver to further decrease the speed or even stop before the pedestrian crossing if the visual obstruction limits the view to or makes it impossible to see the crossing.
In practice, slowing down is not enough but the vehicle must be brought to a halt if, next to the curb in the immediate vicinity of the pedestrian crossing, there is a car either parked or stopped, obstructing the view to the crossing.
Moreover, the vehicle must be stopped in cases where a car in the opposing lane has stopped immediately after the pedestrian crossing in a way to cover the visibility to the crossing at its rear.
A high pile of snow near the pedestrian crossing obligates the driver of a car or tram on the lane next to it to stop before the crossing, because they will have no visibility to the crossing and the pedestrian cannot be seen without stopping before the crossing.
If you follow these rules, you will make the suojatie what it is meant to be – a safe and protected place for the pedestrian to cross.
Road Traffic Act 729/2018 - FINLEX (in Finnish only)
Heikki Kallio Chief Superintendent National Police Board
Konsta Arvelin Chief Superintendent National Police Board