Pedestrian road safety back in the spotlight as people keep walking

One beneficial consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic is that more people are walking. This is a huge positive, endorsed by government, local authorities and health advisors who are keen to encouraging us to continue to keep on our feet.

The AA motoring association conducted a survey of drivers during the 60-day lockdown. Of the 18,129 drivers surveyed between May 12 and May 19, 47 per cent of male and 56 per cent of female respondents said they would be walking more post-lockdown.

It is a positive move for our health and the environment, but will it be matched by education, funding and support for pedestrian road safety?

Focus on the safety of children returning to school

In August of this year (2020) the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) promoted road safety for pedestrians as part of its Injury Prevention Week 2020. APIL are the leading ‘not-for profit’ organisation representing the interests of injured people. Its campaign saw a focus on the safety of children returning to school in September and focussed on educating them about the dangers which are all too commonplace and severe.

There were 456 pedestrian deaths in the UK in 2018, according to the Department for Transport’s ‘Reported road casualties Great Britain, annual report: 2018’. That is 26% of all road deaths. Between 2017 and 2018, the number of child fatalities (aged 0-15) in Great Britain was 48. The majority of child fatalities are mainly pedestrian (28). During the same period, the total number of child casualties was 14,266.

The figures for 2019 were released on September 30 and showed little improvement, but it will be the results for 2020 and 2021 that will provide an insight into the impact of more feet on the pavements and fewer cars on the roads.

Pavements are not always safe havens

Regrettably, statistics show that pavements cannot be taken for granted as safe havens for pedestrians. RoadPeace, a national charity for road crash victims, highlighted analysis of collision data by the University of Westminster’s Active Travel Academy. The shocking finding was that 548 pedestrians were killed by drivers on pavements or verges in the past 13 years with the oldest and youngest in society more at risk. The highest number of pedestrian deaths on pavements was among those over the age of 75 (104) and 16-25 year-olds (77).

In the period between 2005 and 2018 most of those pedestrian deaths across England, Wales and Scotland involved motor vehicles. There were six pedestrian-cycle footway collisions.

It is not just a case of making drivers aware of how their driving could potentially have a catastrophic effect on a pedestrian. Pavement users have a responsibility too and there is a lot that a pedestrian can do to keep safe and protect themselves from the unthinkable. Having said that, drivers have a duty to treat the more vulnerable with extra caution. Has the elderly gent heard the approach of the car? Might the child cycling along the pavement continue into the road without looking? The possibility of carelessness should be anticipated and made allowance for.

Highway Code for pedestrians

The Highway Code provides rules and guidance for pedestrians when crossing the road, using crossings, and in situations that need extra care. Even those of us who are aware of those rules will benefit from the occasional reminder.

YouGov research, commissioned by APIL, showed that 44 per cent of pedestrians – who don’t drive – did not know that white lights on the rear of a parked car indicate that the vehicle is about to reverse. And nearly two thirds of parents believe their children don’t understand the dangers of the roads or concentrate when near or crossing the road.

We must hope that as walking continues to grow in popularity that – as well as continuing to educate drivers – we need to focus and invest in more measures to educate and protect pedestrians, especially children and older adults. This should include an adequately funded and sustained school programme, built-up and popular urban areas need reduced speed limits, light-controlled crossings, improved street maintenance and a crackdown on pavement parking.