UK Vs US: 5 Rights British Pedestrians Have Which Americans Don’t



People often see the UK and the US as two peas in a pod. They love to drink alcohol, they eat lots of junk food, and they watch sports. Plus, they even have a Special Relationship, whatever that means! But, when it comes to driving, the two countries couldn’t be further apart. Not only are the roads narrower in Britain, but the engine sizes are bigger in America. Then, there is the fact the steering wheels and the cars are on different sides.

However, probably the biggest difference comes in the form of pedestrians. Yep, those lowly, active people who would rather walk than use a combustion engine. As it turns out, UK residents have a few perks US citizens do not. The following five are just a taste.


Zebra Crossings

Named after the stripy African animal because of the black and white lines on the roads, they are a safe zone for pedestrians. Once a man, woman or child steps foot on to one, he or she has “right of way.” That is just a fancy way to say the driver has to yield. In the US, zebra crossings do not exist because of the block system in towns and cities. And, even though there are cases of them in Europe, pedestrians don’t have the same rights as in the United Kingdom. Yep, it is possible to find out if you can make a personal injury claim but the answer is in black and white. You know? Like the lines on the road.



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The act of jaywalking is a strictly North American rule and doesn’t exist in Britain. Across the pond, pedestrians can cross the roads without fear of reprisal by a police officer. Of course, a “bobby” may take action if they see an individual acting like a prat and putting a driver’s safety at risk. But, in general, crossing the road where there is no safe place to do so is not an offence. To be fair, with crossings from zebra and pelican to toucan, it’s impossible to jaywalk anyway! Any Brits reading this should keep jaywalking in mind if they visit the US. According to reports, it’s the one major offence which gets British citizens into trouble abroad.


The Right To Be Dry

Have you ever driven past a pedestrian on a rainy day and splashed them with water deliberately? What’s the harm, you say? It’s only a bit of H2O! Well, the authorities in Great Britain don’t seem to agree. By their laws, it counts as careless and inconsiderate driving and can land a fixed notice penalty. In layman’s terms, that means a fine and possible penalty points. There is no jail sentence or anything too severe, but a fine is still a big deal. So, any Americans going on a Great British road trip need to take note in case any scrupulous coppers are on the beat. You would think they didn’t care about getting wet considering the weather!

UK Vs US: 5 Rights British Pedestrians Have Which Americans Don’t



Side Roads

Now, you have to delve deep into the Highway Code to find this gem, but it’s worth it for pedestrians. According to rule 170, people crossing the street have the right of way when vehicles turn onto a side road. At least, they do if they are already crossing the street. Okay, so it seems like a basic rule to adhere to for the public’s safety, yet motorists take the law into their hands. When a driver tries to jump a light or miss oncoming traffic, they will take risks. For pedestrians, it’s a potentially dangerous situation because you have a skeleton and they have half a ton of metal. However, in the UK, it is the fault of the motorist and not the other way around.

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Freedom Of Movement

Forget about Brexit and Schengen for a moment because it’s not that type of movement. In pedestrian terms, freedom of movement means members of the public can walk down any road other than a motorway. It may not seem significant until you realize there are numerous high-speed roads in the UK. Most streets have footpaths which separate the driving community from pedestrians. But, a duel-carriageway doesn’t have any type of walkway for members of the public. So, in theory, pedestrians can walk down the side of a road where cars are allowed to hit 60 miles an hour. It sounds dangerous yet reports of any such incidents are few and far between.

Brits and Americans may be similar but they on opposite ends of the driving spectrum.