Courtesy crossings.

The crossings used by pedestrians that are not pedestrian crossings.

Not by legal definition anyway.

What's the difference?

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Drivers are legally obliged to stop at striped pedestrian crossings, regardless of which side of the road a pedestrian is standing.

Pedestrians using courtesy crossings have no such right of way - whether they cross is entirely down to the motorist's courtesy.

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In areas like Havelock North the courtesy crossings slow traffic down, but still keep it moving.

They are popular around the country in "village" scenarios.

As a pedestrian, I never take it for granted that a vehicle will stop. But I am always appreciative when a courteous driver does.

In effect, there are two sets of rules at play when pedestrians cross the road. No wonder there are near-misses or accidents.

Hastings District Council is bringing in new signs on Havelock North's courtesy crossings after a run of near-misses near the village's main roundabout.

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The crossings have been around since the early 1980s.

New signs aimed at pedestrians will state "LOOK" as a cue to look up and look around for oncoming vehicles.

What has changed since the 1980s, to make pedestrians less aware of their surroundings?

Pedestrians have developed a unique ability to navigate with heads down, eyes focused on their cellphones.

As we have said before in these pages, it seems some of us can't find our way through life without using our phone as a compass.

The other factor that may be at play - life is faster paced, we seem to be in a hurry.

Take time to smell the roses is an idiom that extols the virtue of pausing to appreciate the beautiful things in life.

It seems we need another idiom to extol the virtues of taking time to look where you are going.

Councils like Hastings have little choice when trying to make these crossing safer. Get rid of them, or make them safer with extra signage.

In the meantime, let's hope a motorist on a cellphone and a pedestrian distracted by their mobile device don't meet any time soon on a local courtesy crossing.