Emerging from lockdown

A drivers view on protecting vulnerable road users

There is no doubt that car drivers have played their part in the recent lockdown by staying at home but traffic is now returning to ‘normal’ levels. However, many drivers may not be ready for the ‘new normal’ in many towns and cities across Scotland. By that I mean the higher numbers of cyclists and walkers, quieter roads and for little while yet the lower numbers of buses.

Cycling and walking for leisure has exploded in recent weeks and there is no doubt that their use for commuting is also on the rise as the economy picks up. What is clear is that many people who haven’t been on a bike for years are trying it out again. These riders can often lack confidence and knowledge of the give and take of urban traffic. They need even more space and time from you as the cossetted driver of a large vehicle to help them protect themselves. The same applies to walkers and runners who may be more fixated on avoiding social contact than your approaching car!

This shift has been accelerated by social distancing regulations on public transport. To support this road layouts have been changed, parking spaces removed, pavements widened and through routes closed off. This means that drivers must be prepared for their usual commute to be different from now on. Preparation is the key so that you know what is happening around and ahead of you and don’t get stressed by any surprises. This can be difficult as information on road changes is often hard to find, but a few minutes spent online searching for information on your local town will be time well spent.

Preparing the car is also important with basic checks to ensure you can see and be seen and can stop quickly if needs be. If you are confident in the mechanical safety of your vehicle then you can concentrate on driving safely. If you have had your MOT postponed it would be wise to get it done sooner rather than later to add to your peace of mind. Last, but not least you need to be prepared as a driver if you have been off the road for a while. Basic skills are usually picked up quickly again, but you may need to refresh your confidence and skills of observation and anticipation in the new road landscape of your daily drive.

Quieter roads have also led to higher speeds on the Scottish road network. This is partly due to the lack of traffic and fewer buses but also to a minority of ‘opportunistic’ speeders taking the chance to put the foot down on empty roads. The bad news is we are going to have a potentially risky transition period ahead as roads get busier, more vulnerable road users are out and about and the speeds remain high. There is no excuse for excessive speeding and IAM RoadSmart welcome the continued Police Scotland focus on tackling it. For the most selfish drivers that fear of being caught is probably the best deterrent and thankfully speed cameras have remained fully active during the current crisis.

By working together Scotland has charted a course out of the coronavirus crisis so it is my hope that this cooperation can extend to sharing the road safely as we all move forward together. When it comes to driving in town there is no doubt that staying safe will protect others and save lives.

Author: Neil Greig at IAM RoadSmart

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