Now that summer is well and truly over and the clocks are reverting by one hour on 31st October, (Fall Back, Spring Forward) the colder and darker evenings are now drawing in. Statistically we see more incidents involving pedestrians and vulnerable road users from October to March than we do throughout the rest of the year, with most incidents happening between 3pm and 7pm. With this in mind we need to take special care to look out for pedestrians and other road users when it’s dark.
IAM RoadSmart’s Head of Driving and Riding Standards, Richard Gladman, shares his top tips for keeping pedestrians and vulnerable road users safe ahead of the clocks going back next weekend. Don’t forget with the proposed changes to the Highway Code with regards to road hierarchy could see that those priorities change. This has been very topical lately.
When driving at 35mph, you are twice as likely to kill a pedestrian, then you would be when driving at 30mph. Be more alert near schools, the only predictable thing about children is how unpredictable they can be. Remember: in these areas 20mph really is plenty. With after school clubs and other activities children could be out and about well after the 3pm school bell.
They can be harder to see and may run out between parked vehicles, especially as we approach Halloween, and some children will be outside Trick or Treating. Remember to ‘Look OUT’: Over, Under and Through vehicles. You might just spot a child before they step into the road. Unfortunately, excited children won’t always look before they take off or remember the rules of the road!
Pay attention to people who keep looking over their shoulder: they might be looking to cross the road. If you have a fair amount of space in front of you and vehicles following closely behind, the pedestrian may well run across rather than wait for all the traffic to come past. You also need to watch for mobile phone ‘zombies’: if you see someone fixated on their phone, they are not concentrating on the traffic, so be ready for them to just step out.
When passing stationary vehicles, keep at least a door’s width whenever possible, not just for the car door that might open into your path but also to allow for someone or something emerging from between the vehicles.
Be considerate about where you park. Parking too close to a junction can obstruct someone’s view and make it harder to turn safely. Also beware of obstructing pavements and dropped kerbs. The darker nights could also mean a parking spot that has been clearly visible in the daylight but now after dark, is more challenging to manoeuvre in and out of.
When it’s raining and blowing a gale pedestrian are more likely to dash about and road safety often falls lower on their list of priorities than trying to keep dry. Rain can also be unpredictable, going from a heavy shower to a slow drizzle and back again in no time at all. Some rain is easier to see in and don’t forget about condensation and clearing your car windows and mirrors before you set off otherwise you might not be able to see fully.
It’s a good idea to check the weather and plan your journey before setting off. Use a reliable weather App or news channel to help you. Remember with high winds you can have a swarm or storm of leaves obscuring your view. Wind is also responsible for fallen trees and generally hindering vulnerable road users. Think about bikes swaying as well as vans in very high winds. Icy conditions will obviously make the roads more dangerous but also think about fully clearing your car of ice, snow and water. Steamy windows when you crank the heating up can affect your field of vision as much as ice. With colder days ice can make an appearance morning and evening so when you are setting out anytime of day.
With the clocks changing it can take cyclists a bit of time to get used to the fact that they need lights, and they may forget to use them – remember to look out for cyclists in the period after sunset, and if you’re a cyclist yourself then make sure you spend some time preparing for the darker days ahead. It can also be the same for drivers, if they don’t come on automatically, they may forget to switch lights on.
Richard said: “In a perfect world, it would be ideal if pedestrians would all stay on the pavement and would never need to cross a road; it would also be ideal if all pedestrians wore flashing high-vis. It’s up to us to share the road and be aware and help where we can. An effort to be courteous will go a long way towards making someone’s day and will help keep us all safer.
“Another good tip for pedestrians and those riding a peddle or motorcycle is to wear a pink high-vis vest. While yellow are more common they can blend in with the lights and pink definitely stands out more.”