Peter Matambanadzo Senior Reporter
Pedestrians who do not use designated crossing points or pass through red traffic lights will be jailed for up to six months or made to pay a US$20 fine starting next year as part of the provisions of a new Highway Code. Pedestrians should not cross the road whenever they are facing red traffic lights.
Crossing at undesignated points, also know as jaywalking, is prohibited in most parts of the world.
The new code, to be launched by the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe under the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development, would deal with all road users, unlike in the past when it emphasised on rules for motorists and cyclists.
TSCZ managing director Mr Obio Chinyere said they were finalising consultations on the new book which would be in line with Southern African Development Community road regulations.
He said they would work with the police and local authorities to enforce the new rules.
“The highway code will cover new areas that were not in the old one such as the road traffic system, which has provisions to fine and prosecute road users, including drivers and non-motorised vehicle users as well as cyclists and pedestrians,” Mr Chinyere said.
He said the new book sought to promote safety on roads and factor in all aspects that were lacking in the current book which was formulated in 1972.
“The new Highway Code will introduce new sections such as the road traffic system, which will require all road users to pay closer attention to the road and the information given by markings, signs and the signals on and along the road,” said Mr Chinyere.
He said those who use the roads would be required to observe and take into consideration the behaviour of other road users.
“There will be rules for pedestrians that were not in the old Highway Code such as making jaywalking an offence,” said Mr Chinyere.
Other rules, he said, were the requirements for pedestrians to walk on pavements or suitable verge and if there was no pavement or suitable verge, pedestrians should walk on the right side of the road facing oncoming traffic.
Mr Chinyere said those who allowed their young children onto the road on their own, would also be prosecuted.
“Children should always be accompanied and have their hands held firmly and ensure that you keep a distance between them and traffic,” he said.
The new code also emphasises on pedestrians avoiding unnecessary distraction, including use of mobile phones whenever crossing or walking along the road.
Mr Chinyere said the Highway Code factored in road regulations from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Britain in its efforts to be proactive in educating the public and motorists about road safety and to curb traffic accidents.
The Highway Code will also cover rules on stray animals, whose owners will face prosecution.
It also makes it mandatory for both pedal and motorcyclists to wear a crash helmet and appropriate reflective clothing.
Under the provisions, it would be an offence for cyclists to carry a load of more than 40kgs and loads projecting more than 60 centimetres in front and more than 90 centimetres at the rear of the wheel.
Those who hang onto moving vehicles will also face the heavy fines or be jailed.
The new Highway Code says passengers should not throw litter through the window, but instead wait until disembarkation to dispose it appropriately.
Pedestrian and cycle accidents have been increasing of late and at least 58 pedestrians and cyclists were hit and killed by vehicles in separate incidents countrywide between January and February this year.
Of the 58, 37 were pedestrians, while 21 were cyclists.
In the Sadc region, at least one-third of road accident victims are pedestrians.
In November last year, United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said roads claim 1,2 million lives and injure more than 50 million people every year.
He said around 90 percent of road traffic deaths and injuries occurred in low and middle income countries and most of the victims were pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.