In Australia, pedestrian fatalities and hospitalisations make up around 12 percent of the road toll. Older people and children under 10 are particularly high-risk sectors and vulnerable in areas where cars and people overlap.
Other at-risk groups include teens and young adults behaving inappropriately, and males between the ages of 15 to 54 with most incidences occurring on Friday nights or in the weekend.
Shopping mall and supermarket carparks are common areas for pedestrian crashes, when people are laden with shopping bags and are distracted or slow to cross roads. Here motorists can also make unpredictable moves or drive too fast. Another cause of pedestrian crashes are people being hit by cars turning into roadways, most often from the right-hand side. Crashes also occur when pedestrians cross behind a vehicle, walk with or face the traffic, work or play (in the case of children) on roads.
Although human error or lack of knowledge about road safety is a factor in crashes, roading design also plays a part in how safely pedestrians can move through and around traffic. In cities, lack of adequate footpaths and crossing signals can force pedestrians to take unnecessary risks to manoeuver around traffic and city councils need to revisit certain paths and roadways to ensure pedestrian safety is a high priority.
Such methods can include:
- Using footpaths, raised crossings, overpasses, underpasses and refuge islands to separate pedestrians from traffic.
- Installing traffic calming measures using speed humps, rumble bars, chicanes and road narrowing methods
- Improving lighting at pedestrian crossings at night
- Creating pedestrian-only zones in city centres.
- Making school walking routes for children safer.
Education on Driver and Pedestrian Behaviour
As well as improved roading, both drivers and pedestrians need to be better educated on how to use roads safely and to respect each other. For pedestrians, this includes avoiding getting intoxicated in public places, wearing reflective clothing in poorly lit areas and following road signs and signals that are in place.
While, for drivers, there is a need for more enforcement around speeding and a reduction in speed limits, especially in school zones. Using mobile phones while at the wheel should be more strongly discouraged, as should drunk driving.
General Pedestrian Safety Tips
To keep safe on the roads follow these general tips, and remember, when in doubt don’t step out:
- Always use pedestrian crossings when crossing the road.
- Don’t step out until vehicles have stopped, even at traffic lights, never assume that they will stop.
- Check at intersections for turning vehicles before stepping off the kerb and while crossing.
- Don’t cross between parked cars and at the front or back of buses.
- Wear reflective or light coloured clothing at night or in poorly lit conditions.
- Don’t use a mobile phone or have earplugs in listening to music when crossing the road.
- Don’t enter the road if the red ‘don’t walk’ signal shows.
- Countdown timers on traffic lights help you to judge if it’s safe to cross, if you don’t have enough time, don’t risk it.