Difference between Pelican, Puffin and Zebra Crossing?

Do you know the difference between the crossings?

Experienced drivers still ask the question when we talk about crossings in trainings.  It has come up in Driver CPC and Transport Manager Refresher Courses.

Information in the Highway Code gives this general information at all crossings:

When using any type of crossing you should

  • always check that the traffic has stopped before you start to cross or push a pram onto a crossing
  • always cross between the studs or over the zebra markings. Do not cross at the side of the crossing or on the zig-zag lines, as it can be dangerous.

You MUST NOT loiter on any type of crossing.

Then the specific differences that the crossings have are shown below.

Pelican Crossing

Unlike zebra crossings, a pelican crossing is controlled by traffic lights. Pedestrians press a button when they want to cross and wait until the green man shows and the red light stops the traffic – your cue to stop. Simple eh? Well here’s where it gets a little confusing…

If the lights are green then continue as normal, unless people are still crossing then obviously you’d stop. When approaching a pelican crossing always be prepared to stop, even if pedestrians are waiting at the side. The lights are on a timer so could change at any time. The lights change from green to amber and then to red.

After a period of time, the lights will flash to amber, this warns pedestrians that traffic will start moving soon. For you the driver, the flashing amber light means if the crossing is clear you can continue, but if pedestrians remain on the crossing you must wait until they’re safely across the road.

Puffin Crossing

While many people will tell you pelican crossings and puffin crossings are the same, there is a slight difference.

Puffin crossings are controlled by sensors installed on the top of traffic lights. And rather than being controlled by a timer, the sensors detect when pedestrians are crossing which effects the colour of the lights. Once red, the lights will only change back to green when the coast is clear.

Unlike pelican crossings, puffin crossings don’t change to amber after red, instead they jump straight to green so there’s no indecisiveness, simple.

Zebra Crossing

The biggest giveaway for a zebra crossing is the black and white stripes similar to, you guessed it, a zebra. Hence where it gets its name from. You’ll also notice flashing beacons on either side of the road to make them more visible from afar.

It is a legal requirement to stop and give way to pedestrians when they want to cross the road. Failing to do so is a criminal offence which could result in being issued with points on your license!

Remember, when approaching a zebra crossing slow down and be prepared to stop at all times, especially if you’re in a busy area with lots of pedestrians about.

Thanks to the Highway Code and Wimbledon Driving School for information.

If you require any information on driver training or knowledge, please email us at info@totalcompliance.co.uk


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