In January 2022, 10 sections of The Highway Code have been updated, with 50 rules being added or updated. Which changes have made an positive impact on pedestrian safety?
The new revised Highway Code introduces a ‘hierarchy of road users’. The hierarchy is a concept that places those road users most at risk in the event of a collision at the top of the hierarchy. The hierarchy does not remove the need for everyone to behave responsibly.
The road users most likely to be injured in the event of a collision are pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders and motorcyclists, with children, older adults and disabled people being more at risk. Everyone should take responsibility for their actions:
- At a junction motorised vehicles as well as cyclists and horse riders should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road into which or from which they are turning.
- Pedestrian crossings: the updated code clarifies that people driving, riding a motorcycle or cycling must give way to people on a zebra crossing and people walking and cycling on a parallel crossing. A parallel crossing is similar to a zebra crossing, but includes a cycle route alongside the black and white stripes.
- Shared spaces: People cycling, riding a horse or driving a horse-drawn vehicle should respect the safety of people walking in these spaces, but people walking should also take care not to obstruct or endanger them.
People cycling are asked to:
- not pass people walking, riding a horse or driving a horse-drawn vehicle closely or at high speed, particularly from behind
- slow down when necessary and let people walking know you are there (for example, by ringing a bell)
- remember that people walking may be deaf, blind or partially sighted
What are the key rules and safety advice for pedestrians?
Rules 1 to 35 of the Highway Code are for pedestrians. In Section 2. Crossing the road, Rule 7 is very important as it details what the Green Cross Code is and how to use it. Children should be taught the Green Cross Code at an early age, but should not be allowed to go out alone until such time they can understand it and make the necessary decisions when situations arises:
Additional safety advice for pedestrians:
STOP – LOOK – LISTEN – THINK
- a) Remember when out walking, your full attention is needed to see and take on board what is going on around you, before you step onto the road:
- Are there sufficient gaps in the traffic to cross over the road safely?
- How fast is the speed of the traffic?
- Remove any headphones and stop any conversation to hear traffic better
- Any hoods should be down to see and hear traffic on the roads better
- Phones should not be used when crossing the road! Give the road your full attention every single time you cross over
- b) Before crossing the road, Stop, Look and Listen for any potential hazards: like an electric bike or speeding blue light vehicle
- Be prepared to repeat looking and listening, especially if the road is busy, or if the weather conditions make it harder to see traffic and the traffic to see you (e.g. if it’s raining heavily, if its cloudy or the sun has set at dusk.
- keep looking and listening as you are cross the road as the situation can change very quickly
- c) At junctions, look and listen in all directions including behind you, as traffic can come from other directions than just left and right.
- d) Before crossing the road, stop and position yourself in a way that traffic can see you easily:
When crossing the road, find a safer crossing. However, if there is no pedestrian crossing nearby, cross under or near a street light and avoid crossing:
- between parked cars
- on a bend or a corner
- behind a tree or street furniture
- on the brow of a hill
- e) When you are about to cross, even at a safer crossing, don’t trust that vehicles have seen you, even if they seem to slow down. Only start crossing if they have completely stopped or there is direct eye contact – remember they still might not of seen you, so never assume they have!
- f) In certain conditions, especially in the autumn and winter months remember its more difficult to be seen:
- at low light on cloudy/rainy days
- dusk is when visibility is at its lowest and pedestrians are most vulnerable
- low winter sun can be blinding to both drivers and riders
- at night time it can be harder to be seen by traffic. You might consider wearing:
- a bright, white or fluorescent item of clothing or accessories by day or at dusk
- a reflective item of clothing or accessories by night
- use a torch if walking in non-lit areas by night.
- g) Avoid walking along the road where there is no pavement. If you have no other choice, walk on the side where you are facing oncoming traffic and wear something bright, white or fluorescent and/or reflective which will help you to be seen by drivers, especially from a distance
What are the key pedestrian safety messages to drivers and riders?
Keep your speed below the speed limit in areas used by pedestrians especially near schools, parks, town centres and residential areas. Keep your speed even lower in poor weather conditions when it is harder to see pedestrians, especially in the autumn and winter months, and:
- at low light on cloudy days and at dusk
- when it is raining
- when the sun is low, (it can be blinding)
- at night time
- a) Actively look out for any pedestrians:
- at a formal/informal pedestrian crossing
- at a junction
or where you know they might be masked behind something like:
- parked cars
- trees and street furniture
- a bend or corner
- a brow of a hill.
If you have to drive near a school or college at peak travel time (generally, 7-9 am and 14.30 to 17.00)
- avoid (if you can) roads that lead to the main school entrance/s
- SLOW DOWN and drive at 20mph or below, especially if you see the advisory 20mph signs with flashing lights.
- keep in mind that children are unpredictable and might step out onto the road at any time – so please be extra vigilant and be prepared to STOP suddenly!
- always STOP for the School Crossing Patroller
- do not park on any white or yellow lines they are there for a reason!
- b) Actively look out for pedestrians before:
- turning at a junction
- entering or exiting a roundabout
- when there are lots of pedestrian movements and pupils can spill out into the road
- reversing or undertaking a U-Turn, (which should only be done if there is an emergency)
- Looking left and right and behind several times if required
- Check what is in your peripheral vision or blind spot
- Using your mirrors regularly
As drivers always keep your eyes on the road and give driving your full attention
Doing another task such as:
- having a conversation with your passenger,
- having a conversation on the phone (hand held or hands-free)
- daydreaming or being in highway hypnosis
- distracted by children or pets inside the car
- looking at and/or touching the Sat-Nav
- eating and/or drinking
- using the radio or CD player
Takes your attention away from fully focusing on the road even if it is for a split second. It can reduce your ability to spot hazards and be able to react quickly enough.
What are the main contributory factors in road collisions involving pedestrians?
The collision data for the period 2017-2021 for Devon and Cornwall shows that the main contributory factors in collisions reports involving pedestrians are:
- failing to look properly
- being careless, reckless, in a hurry
- failing to judge vehicles’ path or speed
- being impaired by alcohol
- stepping out into the road masked by stationary or masked vehicle
- dangerous action in the road, like playing
- wrong use of pedestrian crossing.
N.B. Stats 19 information or collision reports comes directly from the police, relate only to personal injury collisions on public roads that are reported, and subsequently recorded, using the STATS19 accident reporting form. Information on damage-only collisions, with no human casualties or collisions on private roads or car parks are not included in this data.
What role does speed play in road collisions with pedestrians?
If a vehicle has to brake suddenly to avoid a hazard such as a pedestrian crossing the road, the vehicle’s speed at the moment of braking will determine the severity of the impact, unsurprisingly, the faster a car is travelling, the longer it takes to stop. It will also be determined by several other factors:
- condition of the car’s brakes and braking system
- condition of the tyres, if they are worn it will take longer for the tread to grip the road surface
- correct tyre pressure
- weather conditions – on wet roads it will take longer to brake
- condition of the road itself
- how quickly the driver reacts, as older drivers have slower reaction times
- tiredness of the driver
- heavier vehicle mass, will take longer for the vehicle to stop
The risk of injury increases greatly with impact speed which means that any slight increase in speed can be really damaging. It is so important to manage your speed based on the road conditions and the environment, remembering that speed limits are only limits not a target.
Inappropriate Speed factsheet February 2017 (rospa.com)
I am an educator, what and how can I teach my students about pedestrian safety?
Rules 1 to 35 of the Highway Code are for pedestrians. In Section 2. Crossing the road, Rule 7 is very important as it details what the Green Cross Code is and how to use it. Children should be taught the Green Cross Code but should not be allowed out alone until they can understand and can make the appropriate decision to deal with any roadside situation.
Below are additional resources and guidance to teach children about road safety:
I am a parent, what and how can I teach my child/ren about pedestrian safety?
Rules 1 to 35 of the Highway Code are for pedestrians. Road safety is best taught in a practical setting meaning that parents are ideally placed when walking their children to school to discuss road safety topics such as safe and dangerous places to cross the road. Children often copy the behaviour of their parents and carers, so it is vital to be consistent and put into practice safer crossing techniques at all times.
In Section 2 of the Highway Code. Crossing the road, Rule 7 is very important as it details what the Green Cross Code is and how to use it. Children should be taught the Green Cross Code at an early age but should not be allowed out alone until they can understand it, to be able to make the appropriate decision to deal with any roadside situation. Parents or carers are best placed to decide when this might be!
Below are additional resources and guidance to teach children about road safety:
List of other road safety websites: