Vulnerable road users in town

A drivers view:

Todays new cars are brimming with technology and safety features, but they are mostly for the protection of the car’s occupants and not specifically there to protect those outside the vehicle.

This is changing, but the importance of sharing the road space in our towns and cities and understanding the needs of other road users cannot be stressed enough. If you are aware of vulnerable road users, you can take action to keep them safe.

One of the biggest issues in town driving is complacency. If you make the same commute every day you can get used to seeing pedestrians, motorcyclists and pedestrians but you can also switch off from trying to anticipate their actions. ‘Failed to look’ is the top reason for collisions but it’s not because of poor eyesight, it’s because far too often we forget to apply the basic skills of observation and anticipation.

Always be aware of the type of pedestrians around you. Elderly people will be slower so help them feel safe by reducing your speed. Children can be easily distracted and are unpredictable too, especially when crossing the road, so do all you can to help them out. Drive with care and be vigilant as a few extra seconds added to your day may make all the difference.

Person crossing the road

Cycling in the winter in Scotland, in a busy town can be a challenge with the cyclist having to watch out for all sorts of hazards including you in your car. Before you overtake them, make sure you have given them enough room as they could adjust their road positioning unexpectedly for a pothole or drain. 1.5meters is the recommended passing gap but treat that as minimum. A few seconds delay is better than a lifetime of regret. It’s always good to remember that a young, fit individual on a bike is likely to be more stable than an older person doing their shopping run.

More and more these days you have to be on the lookout for mobility scooters, there are two different types;

  • Class 2 scooters are only allowed on pavements and have a top speed of 4mph
  • Class 3 mobility scooters should be registered and can be driven on the road with a top speed of 8mph.

Bear in mind that this group of road users may have restricted movement, vision or hearing so give them plenty of space and time.

In town the biggest risk for motorcyclists is a car emerging from a side road – the classic – SMIDSY (“Sorry mate, I didn’t see you”) scenario. The science behind why this can happen is called Saccadic Masking. The simple explanation is that people don’t see clearly when their head or eyes are moving, and they don’t pick up objects travelling towards them very well. So make sure you have a good look, and not just a quick glance. A good tip is that if you’re specifically looking for motorcyclists or cyclists, then you are more likely to see them.

Remember to treat others in a way that you would like to be treated yourself.

Author – Neil Greig from IAM Roadsmart

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