Respecting Other Road Users
It is sometimes easy to forget that we as car drivers share our busy roads with other road users. Awareness of other motorised vehicles such as lorries, caravans, motorbikes, buses and vans are an obvious distraction but what of our most vulnerable road users. Here Ross talks about the hidden dangers on our roads such as pedal bikes, pedestrians and animals.
Before I do this I wish to make sure that we understand the rules on the road when passing motorised vehicles. The highway code states when passing stationary vehicles we need to clear them by at least 1 metre, just in case the vehicle door opens. When overtaking moving vehicles we need a clearance of at least 1.5 metres.
So, back to our vulnerable road users. Pedestrian are everywhere and although there are pedestrian crossings of all kinds (zebra, school crossings, pelican, puffin, toucan and equestrian – who knew there were so many types!) pedestrians are likely to cross the roads at any time, often without a lot of warning. Who has seen a pedestrian walk right into the road whilst staring at their mobile phone? As driving instructors, we are there to teach our learners to anticipate this happening.
What if a pedestrian looks over their shoulder whilst still on the path? What if a pedestrian is walking towards the edge of the pavement. What if a pedestrian presses the button at a crossing? What if… what if… what if….to anticipate is to be safe. Always check your mirrors and ease off the gas if you are unsure what a pedestrian is likely to do, just in case. We all become better pedestrians when we learn to drive as spotting the unexpected isn’t as easy as non driving pedestrians might think
Let’s now talk about cyclists
There are many more cycle lanes than ever before which shows us how local councils are accepting that we need to respect cyclists more. Even with cycle lanes these do not protect the cyclist from the wobble factor. If you have ever ridden a bike you will be fully aware of all the uneven road surfaces and potholes which will lead you to swerve around them. We as car drivers need to anticipate this wobble factor and we need to give cyclists at least 2 metres clearance when passing them.
We also need to get round cyclists at the first safe opportunity as they sense when cars are around them and we don’t want them to be rushed or panicked by our presence.
We also need to be careful of cyclists when we are sat at traffic lights or a junction and an additional left mirror check should take place before turning. The final potential danger is when cyclists intend to turn right. As learners we need to anticipate this by the position of the bike and the potential look over their shoulder. We cannot expect cyclists to always put their right arm out to turn, although this would make anticipating a right turn easier.
Animals on the road
Finally, we need to discuss animals on the road, in particular horses and their riders. Horse riders are amongst the safest of our vulnerable road users as they fully appreciate that when a horse gets spooked it can bolt sideways at speeds in excess of 50mph thus putting the horse, jockey and car in danger. As new drivers we need to learn how to pass horses wide and slow. There are many online campaigns promoting this safe practice.
We need to give horses as much room as possible and pass them as slow as possible avoiding revving the engine. We also need to pull away slowly as not to spook the animal. Country roads are where we will encounter more horses. Many of these roads will have triangular warning signs if liveries or bridle ways are nearby but we should not rely on this information to drive carefully and slowly on such roads.
In summary our roads should be a safe place for all of us to get on with our daily lives and we need to respect all road users, especially the most vulnerable ones. We especially need to remind ourselves this when we are stressed or in a hurry and as always it’s better to get home late than risk injury or worse. Safe driving everyone.