How does the pedestrians right of way law work in Darwin (NT) and other cities in Australia?

When do pedestrians have the right of way?

Is it not common courtesy to offer pedestrians the right of way even though it may not be a law in a specific city/state?

  • 5
    It's all the time at least in QLD - I failed my first learners test on this; given a diagram with a car continuing to travel down a straight road, with a pedestrian stepping onto the street in front of it (no crossings/lights/signage etc), I marked the car as having right of way - not so. That said, as a pedestrian, I would generally just give way to any rapidly moving, 1-tonne-plus chunks of metal propelled by explosions. Mar 19, 2014 at 4:40
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    @ChrisO'Kelly Ahh, now I see why almost no motorist respects the pedestrians right of way - because a lot of pedestrians dont want them to! This messes it up for migrants who know their rights. Mar 19, 2014 at 5:08
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    True, unfortunately, I've been hit by a van crossing the road at a green pedestrian lighted crossing, and last month had to jump back away from the road when a semi trailer rode the gutter almost on top of me - it's a case of "once bitten, twice absolutely-staying-out-of-the-way-thankyou" for me, heh. Mar 19, 2014 at 5:14
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    An American friend of mine was absolutely stunned to see a car here in Australia stop and let her cross the road at a zebra crossing. I thought it was normal. I am now scared to visit America. O_O Mar 19, 2014 at 6:02
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    Almost everyone will stop for a zebra crossing. Most will stop and wait for pedestrians to cross at lights or a crossing instead of trying just to swerve around them. A majority will wave you across if you're on a small street with a traffic island. Other than that they probably won't specifically stop to let you cross because the traffic is either too fast or not enough traffic to bother you.
    – dlanod
    Mar 19, 2014 at 8:36

2 Answers 2


NT's Road Users Handbook specifically says

As a driver, you are legally required to give way to pedestrians at crossings and when entering or leaving a driveway. However, you should always be prepared to stop for pedestrians.

This is generally the minimum standard across Australia, e.g. in NSW pedestrians always have right of way:

Drivers must always give way to pedestrians if there is danger of colliding with them, however pedestrians should not rely on this and should take great care when crossing any road.

However some areas have signs that preclude these rights, e.g. Mackay has signs in their CBD indicating that pedestrians do not have right of way. This doesn't mean cars will hit you but as a frequent pedestrian I find it better to not get hit rather than argue over who had right of way - common courtesy is not necessarily common, though if you are waiting patiently on the side of the road to cross, many drivers will wave you across... and some won't.


The ABC has a good write up of it on their blog site

They point out that despite the laws, common sense should always prevail - just because a car has the right of way, does not mean he should drive into that pedestrian walking in front of him, and pedestrians should do everything in their power not to be an obstruction to traffic.

In regards to right of way:

In general, drivers are required by law to give way to pedestrians in the following situations:

· At pedestrian crossings and in shared zones.

· When the driver is entering or leaving the road. For example: when driving into or out of your driveway at home you must give way to pedestrians on the footpath.

· When the driver is turning left or right at an intersection the driver must give way to any pedestrian at or near the intersection who is crossing the road the driver is entering. This provision does not appear to apply to roundabouts, perversely.

· When the driver is doing a U-turn.

· When turning left in a slip lane the driver must give way to any pedestrian on the slip lane.

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