In any accidental encounter between a car and a pedestrian, the person on foot is always going to be the one that comes off second best.

 

Official figures obtained from the Australian Automobile Association highlight the scope of this often overlooked road safety issue.

 

During the last decade around 3,449 pedestrians have been killed on Australian roads.

 

More than a third of these were seniors over the age of 60 years, and 1 in 10 were children under the age of 14 years. Older Australians continued to be overrepresented in the number of pedestrian accidents and fatalities, and account for 24% of all pedestrian fatalities.

 

As the population increases, it is estimated that there will be a similar increase in the number of older pedestrian fatalities.

 

So when you’re controlling a motor vehicle you need to be aware of not only the traffic around you but also the pedestrian traffic as well.

 

You can do this by scanning for pedestrians at crossings and intersections and anticipating their actions.

 

Drivers and motorbike riders need to adapt their speed in locations where there is a high amount of pedestrian activity. These areas include schools, shopping centres and local streets.

 

Suburban street speed limits are deliberately low to help minimise the risk of fatal injury should a pedestrian be struck by a vehicle.

 

The suburbs are particularly hazardous with regard to children. You never know if you'll round a corner to find a group of kids playing games on the road or if the children on the footpath are going to run out into the road.

 

The pedestrians you encounter in cities are more likely to be adults but don't be fooled into thinking they're any more alert to the dangers of traffic than children. Grown-ups are just as likely to be distracted by conversations on mobile phones, the music on personal stereos or just the rush to get where they're going.

 

In addition to motorists being more pedestrian aware, car makers are also looking at ways to minimize pedestrian incidents.

 

A range of in-vehicle systems and new safety technology is being introduced to help reduce crashes involving pedestrians and improve pedestrian safety.

 

These systems can detect pedestrians ahead, activate braking earlier and so shorten vehicle stopping distances.

 

However, whilst these new systems show considerable promise, they will take some time to become standard. Even with the advancement of this sort of technology it will never override the responsibility of motorists when it comes to those on foot.

 

Finally, remember almost everyone is a pedestrian at some stage and, as such, is a vulnerable road user. So while driving, make sure you give other people the courtesy and consideration you’d expect when you’re in their shoes.

 

Drive Safety – Russell White Driversafety.com.au