Saturday 19 January 2019

Why it should not be a matter of 'us versus them' on roads

π Our road safety expert says motorists are too quick to lay blame with cyclists and pedestrians

It’s easy for motorists to complain about cyclists and pedestrians from behind a tonne of metal
It’s easy for motorists to complain about cyclists and pedestrians from behind a tonne of metal

EVERY week we receive many emails from the public on road safety issues.

Without doubt the topic that's raised most frequently is the behaviour of cyclists and pedestrians.

Many complain about the cavalier behaviour of cyclists in particular and their 'a la carte' attitude to the rules of the road - running red lights being the biggest offence.

While cyclists and pedestrians must respect the rules of the roads, drivers must do the same and are not beyond reproach themselves.

It's easy for drivers to complain about cyclists from behind a tonne of metal, because when something does go wrong, they will not suffer the greater injuries.

It's not about taking sides.

But I honestly have to say that when reading some of the feedback that's sent in you cannot help but feel that some drivers are being overly 'territorial' in their attitudes to road use.

Empathise

While I would empathise with the sentiment of those who write in to complain about the errant behaviour of cyclists and pedestrians, it simply does not fit the profile of a large proportion of vulnerable road user casualties.

Analysis of fatal collisions last year clearly shows that a sizeable proportion involving pedestrians or cyclists involved older people and children.

Almost half of cyclists and two-thirds of pedestrian deaths fall into these age brackets.

In particular half of all pedestrians killed were older and had an average age of 73.

Of course nobody has exclusive rights to the road.

It's a public place, a shared space and we all have a duty of care to use it safely.

Pedestrians, cyclists and drivers have a responsibility to treat each other with respect and follow the rules of the road.

This is especially important given the fact that there was a 24pc increase in vulnerable road user deaths in 2014.

For pedestrians and cyclists, this means being seen, putting into practice what we were taught when we were children when crossing the road and not breaking traffic lights if we are cycling.

However, there is an additional burden of responsibility on drivers to take care when sharing the roads with the most vulnerable members of the community.

This is because regardless of who is at fault, the speed of the vehicle at the time of impact will determine if the pedestrian or cyclist suffers serious injury or death.

This is simply the laws of physics.

Drivers need to pay greater attention to their speed, particularly in urban areas, as this pre-crash factor has the biggest bearing on outcome.

And the vast majority of drivers are speeding in areas that are used in large numbers by vulnerable road users.

A recent free speed survey conducted by the RSA found that, currently, 82pc of drivers are exceeding the 50kmh speed limit in urban national areas.

Context

So to put this in context, nine out of ten pedestrians, hit by a vehicle at 60kmh will die.

If they are struck at 50kmh, their survival is in the balance.

Most drivers are speeding in our towns and villages when they should be choosing an appropriate speed for the environment and their surroundings.

Add to this the fact that drivers are becoming increasingly distracted at the wheel, and it puts cyclists and pedestrians at greater risk.

The results of an RSA observational study in mid-December indicates the number of people talking or texting on the phone while driving is getting worse.

One-in-12 drivers are using their phone while driving, compared to 1 in 25 in 2013.

In the 'us versus them' debate that is raging between cyclists, pedestrians and drivers it's worth remembering they are more alike than we think.

Figures from the UK, for example, show that 80pc of cyclists hold a driving licence and that one-in-five drivers cycle at least once a month.

So quite often they're the same people. It should not be a matter of 'us v them'.

Irish Independent

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