Chapter 29: PEDESTRIAN SAFETY
Per hour of travel walking is 2.5 times more dangerous than traveling in a car.
Pedestrian accidents account for between 15 and 20% of all road deaths in Australia.
Over 80% of the pedestrians injured or killed are struck whilst crossing the road. The remainder are struck while playing, standing, working or lying on the road, walking along the road, standing on the footpath or median or are hit whilst in a driveway.
Three groups of people are at most risk, the young, the old and the drunk.
Most child accidents occur near the victims home, with the victim running across the street in the afternoon without seeing the vehicle approaching.
Aren't the children easier to miss when they are "slow"
Most elderly pedestrian accidents result from an error of initial judgment (not perceiving the danger due to sensory loss with age) and failure to avoid the developing incident (reduced mobility and intellectual impairment).
Contrary to popular belief only 12% of those injured and killed are pedestrians emerging from behind a parked car or other vehicle.
But 44% of pedestrians did not see the vehicle that struck them and a further 34% of pedestrians saw the approaching vehicle when it was too late.
The vast majority then become victims by attempting to simply walk across the road. How can this be?
The answer is that good safety practice breaks down with the realities of everyday life. We take risks because we perceive the risk to be low or something we can handle without incident. As with many areas in road safety; too many find out the hard way that it can happen to them.
The speeding driver, the car hidden behind another, the car that changes lanes suddenly are all events that have led to pedestrian deaths.
The majority of all pedestrian accidents occur on arterial roads and not local streets.
On a 13 metre wide 2 lane arterial road with vehicles approaching at 60 km/h, a pedestrian would require a decision distance (the distance in which the person determines it is safe to cross) of at least 145 metres.
On a 22 metre wide 4 lane arterial road with traffic moving at 65 km/h a pedestrian would require a decision distance of 322 metres.
Unfortunately 30% of people over the age of 75, due to poor eyesight cannot detect the presence of an oncoming car at 300 metres let alone determine its speed of travel. Many of the elderly find it difficult to judge speed and therefore tend to base their decision to cross the road on distance and not speed. As such fast vehicles are a threat of elderly pedestrians.
Statistically elderly pedestrians are over-represented in accidents since that attempt to cross the road "blind"; relying on the drivers to stop or avoid them.
Young pedestrians under the age of 25 are also over-represented in accidents because of the high risks taken when crossing.
RUN-OVER vs. RUN-UNDER
We hear about pedestrians being RUN OVER by a car but generally adults struck by cars are actually RUN UNDER.
The centre of gravity of an adult is about the level of the navel and the impact point of a car is much lower. Thus on impact the pedestrians legs fly forward, toppling the person over until the head strikes the rear of the bonnet or windscreen.
Usually the driver is braking, which again lowers the bonnet as the front springs compress with the weight transfer forward.
Typically as the car continues to brake the pedestrian slides forward and makes secondary impact with the road in front of the stationary vehicle.
If the driver did not brake, the pedestrian would travel up and over the car, landing on the road behind it. The injuries would be much more severe.
Measures may be taken in vehicle design to increase pedestrian protection, but the speed of the vehicle is by far the major determinant on the injuries inflicted on the pedestrian.
DOES DRIVING SPEED MAKE A DIFFERENCE TO PEDESTRIAN SURVIVAL?
Picture the following scenario.
Suppose three cars are traveling side by side, one at 50 km/h, one passing at 60 km/h and another passing both at 80 km/h, when suddenly a child runs onto the road at a point just beyond that at which car traveling at 50 km/h can stop (40 metres down the road). The driver of the car traveling at 50 km/h will stop in time, the car traveling at 60 km/h would hit the child at 44 km/h and the driver of the car traveling at 80 km/h would have only just reacted, hitting the child at 72 km/h.
The answer then is obvious, because stopping distance increases with the square of speed, the faster we drive, the less chance we will have to stop and the harder then we will hit. By doubling your speed, your total stopping distance can increase up to 4 times.
At an impact speed of 45-50 km/h a pedestrian will have only 27% chance of survival. At an impact speed of more than 60 km/h the chance of survival is less than 1%. The speeding driver has just killed a young child!
Research suggests that at an impact speed of 30-45 km/h, a pedestrian would have an 87% chance of survival, though the injuries sustained would be severe.
From a drivers point of view, we need to be alert to pedestrians crossing the road in front of us.
PEDESTRIAN CROSSING SCENARIO
How many times have you been approaching a crossing when you notice that the car in front of you is stopping for a pedestrian, as you slow the car behind quickly changes lanes and races past not realizing the danger, you are overwhelmed with this feeling of helplessness as you can see an accident about to happen.
Our vision is very important in avoiding these situations. Looking further down the road and scanning for hazards can greatly reduce your chance of ever being faced with a one-on-one life and death emergency situation with a pedestrian on the road in front of you.
Research has shown that almost all drivers faced with a real pedestrian hazard respond with excessive emergency braking locking the wheels and putting the driver into a skid with no steering control and increased braking distance.
This is just one of the many scenarios that Safe Drive Training instructs drivers in. Through practice and expert instruction the majority of course participants learn to not lock the brakes and to control the panic that comes with such a situation.
Australia has one of the highest urban speed limits in the world. A reduction of 10 km/h in travel speed would prevent 50% of all pedestrian fatalities and 21% of all collisions.
By reducing the urban speed limit in Australia to 50 km/h as many as 100 lives could be saved each year. The slower speed decreases total stopping distance and creates a large reduction in impact speed.
(Written by Joel Neilsen, Managing Director, Safe Drive Training)