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The first step of any walk should be safety

Walking is good for everyone, as long as safety comes first.

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  • Fatal injuries and deaths

  • Risks for the vulnerable

  • New rules apply

  • Ways to stay safe

Walking safely is a great way to get around

Taking a walk is sustainable and healthy. Recently, the rules changed to give pedestrians more rights on the road.

When walking alongside busier roads you need to be more vigilant especially when you need to cross, as traffic may be travelling faster. Getting it wrong could result in a serious injury. The best way to enjoy a walk is to think ahead and stay alert.

What you need to know

  • The law has changed and pedestrians now have the highest priority
  • Pedestrians are killed or injured every day on Scotland’s roads
  • Pedestrians over 60 years old can be particularly vulnerable
  • Children and babies are also at higher risk
  • Some simple steps can help to improve everyone’s safety

Important new rules

  • There’s now a new hierarchy of road users
  • Those who can do the most harm have the greatest responsibility
  • Drivers and riders have to give way to pedestrians crossing a road
  • Pedestrians and cyclists have priority when turning in and out of junctions
  • Drivers and riders need to give plenty of space when passing others. At least:
    • 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists at up to 30mph
    • 2 metres and under 10mph for horse riders and horse-drawn vehicles
    • 2 metres and a low speed when passing pedestrians walking on a road
  • Cyclists can ride in the centre of the lane, or two side-by-side, for their own safety
  • In a vehicle, the door should be opened with the hand furthest from the door, helping to make drivers look over their shoulder to see cyclists or pedestrians nearby

    Walking is good for us all…

    Walking is simple, free and an easy way to be more active:

    • Brisk walking is proper exercise – building stamina and burning calories
    • It can be good for your mental health too
    • Going on foot helps to reduce vehicle emissions and ease congestion
    • Dedicated footpaths let us enjoy our surroundings away from the dangers of vehicles

    …but safety is so important

    • Older people, children and babies are particularly vulnerable on our roads
    • On average three under-5s are killed or injured on Scotland’s roads every day
    • Just under half of them are pedestrians
    • Boys are more likely to die in a road accident than girls
    • Children moving from primary to secondary school are more at risk

    Older people out and about

    Most pedestrians killed each year are over 60 years old.

    Here are some things worth keeping in mind:

    • Try to avoid walking during rush hour when the traffic is busy
    • Allow extra time for journeys, so you’re not rushed into poor decisions
    • It’s always safer to cross using zebra and puffin crossings, or traffic islands
    • Don’t assume all cars will stop at a red light
    • Be sure it’s safe before you cross, and check for any emergency vehicles
    • If you have glasses or a hearing aid, always wear them when you’re out
    • Try to wear bright clothing, especially in bad weather
    • Remember that electric and hybrid vehicles are harder to hear

    Keeping children safe

    Always encourage children to use the safest places to cross a road. For example:

    • Pelican or puffin crossings

    • Zebra crossings

    • Subways

    • Footbridges

    • Traffic islands

    • School Crossing Patrols

    The Green Cross Code

    If there isn’t a suitable, dedicated crossing point, find a good place away from parked cars, where you can see what’s coming on both sides of the road. Then use the Green Cross Code to teach children to follow the same steps each time they cross.

    Stop – At the kerb but not over it

    Look – All around for traffic

    Listen – For traffic, including emergency sirens coming quickly

    Think – Is it safe to cross? If it is, walk straight across the road

    Going into secondary school


    Changing from primary to secondary can bring new safety challenges. Try the route to secondary school with children before they start. Make sure they’re familiar with the journey and know all the safest places to cross.

    Walking with babies and young children

    When you’ve got small children, it’s easy to be distracted.

    There are a few simple tips that could come in handy:

    • If you’re about to cross, don’t push your pram onto the road while the traffic passes. Put it beside you on the pavement until it’s clear to cross
    • Hold a young child’s hand, or use reins to keep them safe
    • Never let young children out on their own
    • Try to walk between your child and any traffic
    • Children like bright clothes, so things like fluorescent colours help them to be seen
    • Remember, children copy adults – so always lead by example

    Mobile devices and headphones

    From podcasts to music and chatting, phones and headphones are now used more and more by people while out walking.

    Here are some things to keep in mind:

    • Any distractions can make you less aware of your surroundings
      • Like judging where other people are on the pavement
      • Or a vehicle’s speed and distance if you’re crossing a road
    • Headphones can mask the sound of vehicles coming
    • You’ll also be less aware of your environment and your personal safety
    • Electric vehicles make no engine noise, so be sure to look properly before crossing
    • If you have to use your phone, it’s better for everyone if you stop first and put your phone away before crossing any roads

    Walking in the countryside

    Being closer to nature is relaxing and good for mental health but, there are still plenty of safety risks too.
    A few simple rules can help:

    • Always walk towards oncoming traffic, on the same side of the road
    • Use the pavement or path next to the road (if there is one)
    • Help others to see you by wearing or carrying something bright
    • At night, use reflective equipment like armbands or jackets
    • Take special care with young children, pushchairs and wheelchairs
    • Use safe crossings where possible and follow the Green Cross Code
    • If you’re in a group, walk in single file when required
    • Keep an extra look out for electric and hybrid vehicles, as they’re harder to hear

    Bends on country roads.

    It’s often safer to cross the road some distance before a sharp right-hand bend. That way oncoming traffic will have a better chance of seeing you and you can then cross back after going around the sharp bend.

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