Among the major contributors to South African road fatality statistics are people walking on the road. Pedestrian fatalities account for over a third of all casualties and as such, people on foot are a prime concern for anyone behind the wheel.
The Arrive Alive website receives daily information about road accidents across South Africa and provides data which reveals that some 35-40% of casualties are pedestrians. There is little wonder that a vehicle travelling at a high speed is a deadly weapon. If someone on foot gets in the way, whether through their inattention or owing to a mistake they make, the consequences are devastatingly obvious.
The major contributing factors to pedestrian fatalities in South Africa are:
- Inebriated persons – are more likely to stumble into the road.
- Pedestrians crossing motorways or freeways – While it is illegal to walk on or run across the freeway, it still happens a lot, especially in developing countries. Particularly where there are multiple lanes, it can be easy to underestimate the speed of approaching vehicles.
- Distractions – Pedestrians who fail to pay attention to traffic (while using phones, listening to music or reading, or simply daydreaming) can stray into the path of an approaching car.
- Traffic lights and crossings – Pedestrians crossing the road on an orange or red light into traffic.
- Poor visibility – Dark clothing and narrow roads can result in motorists not being able to see pedestrians.
- Walking in the road instead of on the pavement or shoulder (particularly when combined with poor visibility).
- Inattentiveness – Pedestrians chasing a ball, stepping into the road after getting off the bus or riding a skateboard can easily place themselves in danger.
- Unattended children who wander into the road.
- Victims of crime trying to escape attackers.
- Victims of reckless driving who, through no fault of their own, end up in the path of a driver who has mounted the pavement or otherwise broken the law.
Safety tips for pedestrians:
- Always obey road signs and traffic lights.
- In low-light situations, wear bright coloured clothes. Consider a reflecting band or other high visibility item if you regularly walk after hours.
- Use the pavement or walk as near to the roadside as possible, facing oncoming traffic.
- Don’t drink and walk. Your judgment is impaired and you are at greater risk.
- Always use pedestrian crossings and bridges where available, even if it means walking a little further.
- Look left, look right, look left again. Never cross the road without performing this simple procedure.
- Don’t assume you have been seen. Motorists tend to be on the lookout for other motorists and not pedestrians. Make eye contact.
- Be on the constant lookout for potential danger.
- When crossing a road, don’t walk half way; this leaves you in danger’s way. Rather cross when both lanes are clear.
Safety tips for motorists:
- Constantly look for pedestrians – they can pop up even where they shouldn’t be and can be hard to spot owing to dark clothing.
- Be especially cautious when passing informal settlements, often alongside freeways. People will run over the road in these areas.
- Consider slowing even below the speed limit when passing these settlements; avoid overtaking.
- Assume the worst – pedestrians might be intoxicated or otherwise impaired and could be unpredictable.
- Take particular care to spot small children and the elderly.
- Don’t drive distracted (eating, using your phone, etc)
- Slow down if visibility is compromised (rain, dust, low sun).
- Watch out for pedestrians walking in the same direction as you are travelling. They might not hear your vehicle and step into the road.
- Take extra care on ‘payday’ (usually Friday afternoons/evenings). There will be more intoxicated persons around.
- Transit zones (taxi and bus ranks) are often busy and chaotic. Be aware that passengers could step suddenly into the path of your vehicle.
- Respect pedestrian crossings – people on foot have right of way.
Remember that if you hit a pedestrian, even if it isn’t your fault, the results can be horrific and deeply unpleasant to sort out. If a death occurs, you will automatically be charged with culpable homicide.
By taking more responsibility for how you drive, you can help improve pedestrian safety – and avoid becoming a victim of someone else’s carelessness while making the roads safer for all.
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