Who Are Vulnerable Road Users?
Motorcyclists, pedal cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders.
They are vulnerable road users because they are not surrounded by a metal box like a car, van, truck or bus is. They are harder to see, why? Mostly as they are all in dark colours to start with, now not all of them, but biker leathers are black, look about the streets most pedestrians wear dark coloured clothes. This adds to them being hidden. Yes, there are some that wear brighter clothes, but still they do not become less vulnerable because they do.
So, what can we do about vulnerable road users? By taking extra care, that extra look to double check and checking again to look can mean the difference between an accident happening, or not.
It is all about being aware, being aware of what the vulnerable road users are doing around you, and making them aware that you are there. Let’s assume that the vulnerable pedestrian is not a driver, they do not know how to control a vehicle and how it reacts when an emergency happens, let’s assume that the motorcyclist does not drive a HGV or Bus and does not consider how much extra room they need, of how long they need to stop. You as a driver in your vehicle must make allowances for them not knowing these skills you have.
You are driving every day, you know your skill and almost drive without thinking on it much, you do not need to think what to do with the pedals to change gear, you do not think about using the MSM routine approaching a roundabout, because you do it so often it just happens. But that is when the missed mirror check come in, the slightly wrong position or lane discipline comes from. Just as the pedestrian walks the same speed across a road because the last year they have been walking not ever has anyone turned into that road when they are there to cross, so they stop checking and just walk out, or they have ear phones in listening to music and cannot hear you approach from behind.
So, a little reminder of this will do no harm.
Motorcyclists account for just 1% of road traffic in the UK, but, for 1 in 5 of all road user deaths. They are 38 times more likely to be killed in a road traffic incident than that of a car driver or occupants, per mile driven. What can we do about that then? If you’re driving a car, van, bus or HGV, here are just a few things to refresh you mind when driving round vulnerable road users:
- Think Bike! We have seen the adverts, we see the posters, so see the motorcyclist, take longer to look for them. In nearly half of incidents involving motorcyclists, drivers of other vehicles had failed to look properly when emerging from junctions.
- Check for bikes when making line changes, a few more checks in the mirrors will help there, if you’re on or joining a two or three lane carriageway or motorway with more lanes, a quick look round will also go a long way to saving a motorcyclist, just to ensure they are not there when you’re planning to turn.
- Speed, never underestimate the speed. The way we view speed of a vehicle coming towards us, is hard to judge, you may be able to guess, but that tends to go on with your knowledge of the road and what general traffic flow on that road does, not the exact speed of the road user coming at you. When you look and see a motorcyclist approaching a junction many will underestimate the speed of travel.
- Keep your distance, driving too close can intimidate less experienced riders. Remember back to when you were learning to drive, you were on a hill a car right up close behind you, you were worried about not getting the bite point and rolling back. Take your time and be patient.
Cycling is becoming even more of a popular way to commute. More so after we have seen this pandemic of Covid-19 and we are more cautious on our travel habits. There has been the introduction of the Dutch Roundabout to protect cyclists and pedestrians, these may become more popular as cyclists take to the roads more. We have cycle lanes making the roads be more able to be shared by all road users. But the cycle lanes allow them to pass down the left-hand side in queuing traffic. This is where it can go wrong if you as a driver are not staying alert.
- Half of all fatal collisions involving cyclists and trucks are when making left turns at junctions. If you are driving a truck, large van or a car, doing extra left mirror checks could be the difference between life and death.
- Whilst cyclists can be to blame, drivers of all vehicles can do that but more to make life that bit easier for yourself and safer. Just do more checks and you will be on your way without any other things stopping you.
- Don’t overtake a cyclist before making a left turn across their path, they may just be going faster than you think. I remember one day doing a training session in a van, we were in a built-up area on a 20mph limit and a group of cyclists over took us, they were going so fast.
- Something we only think about when on a plane. But what is turbulence? basically air flow. Your vehicle will cause turbulence and this can be dangerous to cyclists. So, when you are overtaking a cyclist think about the space you give, have you kept up to speed with how much space you should now give cyclists. It is 1.5m or as much room as you can.
- Cyclists are also children going to and from school. They will be full of things going round in their heads, just looking for that next bit of fun. Racing each other, wheelie, or just slowly going along. They maybe in your way, but did you or your friends do the same when you went to school? You or they may have, you just forgot about it. But these doing it now are just in your way, or you do not know them do they are not letting you get on with what you are doing. Hold back, give them space, you would not like it if someone knocked over your child. They may not be doing something not right, they may be taking risks, I am not saying that is right, some are just plain daft and should have bikes taken off them, but that is also them learning, what is right and wrong, for when they are older.
- Cyclists ride also two side by side now and a metre away from the kerb to make them more visible. Roads are for everyone. Slow down, move over and enjoy your day, just as the cyclist will do for you doing so.
We are all pedestrians at some point, just think, drop the car off at the garage, take a walk to town whilst it is done, you’re a pedestrian again. Pedestrians are amongst the most vulnerable road users. Drivers of all vehicles should be aware of children, older and disabled people, particularly around shopping areas, residential areas, hospitals, parks etc. RoSPA states that 60 child pedestrians are killed or seriously injured every week also nearly half of pedestrians killed are over the age of 60. What can us as drivers do about this?
- Keep being aware. Pedestrians can be easily distracted, especially children, so watch for them stepping out or dashing out into the road without looking.
- Use caution, think more when passing parked cars, ice cream vans, mobile library vans, these are areas children may rush and run out into the road without looking.
- Be patient, older people may have difficulties in seeing, hearing or movement, may misjudge your speed or your intentions of what you are going to do. Give them time and space to cross safely.
- Approaching crossings. Always look about for vulnerable people who may wish to cross. Never wave a pedestrian across. Just stop and be patient as you will not know if the oncoming vehicles will have seen the pedestrian and will stop or those behind will overtake unexpectedly.
You should be expecting to see these out in the country, rural roads and minor roads are where you should be on the lookout for horses. They may not have bright high visibility colours on. They can blend into background and be hidden. More than half of incidents involving horses occur on minor roads. Horses are very powerful animals, but can be frightened very easily. The riders may be adults or children. They may also ride double file to protect the novice rider or a nervous horse. What should we be doing a driver of all size vehicles?
- Drive Slowly Past. 15mph or less, giving them plenty of room and be prepared to stop in case the horse does panic, and jolt about or rear up.
- Pass quietly. Turn down music, do not rev up your engine, noise can make the horse be scared and become uncontrollable by the rider.
- Know your arm signals. Watch for signals the rider may give, they may indicate they know the horse is scared and ask you to stop, they may say they are about to turn, they may indicate it is ok for you to pass. Do so with care and share the roads.
Whatever we drive, where ever we are we can all do a bit more to make the roads safer. Never feel you know it all. You may have good confidence, good control, but knowing what to do in an emergency and staying calm and collective to be able to control your vehicle is the most important thing. Plus, you may not have encountered this yet, so can you know what you will do if you do? No, not until you do.
What can help you? Never stop learning, never stop being cautious and aware, always be patient and share the roads with everyone. One last tip to cover before I finish this today.
You can never check your mirrors enough.
- Before setting off, check your mirrors are in good condition, you have good and correct view down both sides of your vehicle and trailers/caravans, including HGV drivers.
- Make good use of mirrors before turning, speeding up, slowing down and overtaking.
- Be aware of your blind spots
- Make good frequent use of your mirrors, so you know what is going on around you, you will know when to move over and let that emergency vehicle pass you.
Above all, always remember ‘mirror, signal and then manoeuvre’. Making that final observation can make the difference between having an accident or avoiding one.