Road Safety Week: Tips for staying safe on the roads

Mon 14th Nov 2022

For Road Safety Awareness Week, Catherine Hyde from Coodes’ personal injury team has put together ten top tips to make sure you stay safe on the roads.

Every year, road safety charity BRAKE promotes Road Safety Awareness Week for drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, and other road users. This year’s awareness week is from 14 November until 20 November just on the cusp of winter. On average, someone is killed or seriously injured on UK roads every 16 minutes.

With the recent update to the Highway Code, inclement weather, and shorter days, are you staying safe on the roads? I’ve compiled ten top tips for road users to ensure that you stay safe and within the law.

Hierarchy of road users

With the latest update to the Highway Code, there has been a change to the hierarchy of road users. It follows the principle that the most at risk are at the top. The lower you sit, the more harm you can cause to other drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, and other road users.

For this reason, pedestrians are placed at the top of the hierarchy. This is followed by cyclists, horse riders and motorcyclists. Cars and van drivers sit one from the bottom, with the final slot going to bus and lorry drivers.

Make yourself familiar with the Highway Code update and H rules

As well as the new hierarchy, new ‘H rules’ have also been introduced.

H1 means that all road users need to be aware of the Highway Code and the recent updates. It also serves as a reminder that your place in the hierarchy conveys your responsibilities to the safety of others, as well as your own.

H2 is a rule for all other road users, except pedestrians. When a pedestrian is waiting to cross at a junction, other road users intending to turn must give way to the pedestrian.

And the H3 rule applies to drivers and motorcyclists. Cars and motorcycles cannot cut across cyclists, horse riders or horse-drawn vehicles when turning in or out of a junction.

Know your passing distances

The guidance for drivers on safe passing distances, as well as speeds, has also been overhauled. The minimum passing distance is 1.5 metres (5 feet) if you’re overtaking a cyclist at 30mph. The rule goes that the quicker you are overtaking a cyclist, the more space you need to give them.

If passing a horse rider or horse-drawn vehicle, it’s best to do so under 10mph allowing 2 metres (6.5 feet) minimum. This same distance also applies when passing pedestrians who could be walking in the road.

In all situations, it’s always best to wait and only overtake when you can make the passing distance safely.

Be safe, be seen

As the mornings and evenings get much darker, more responsibility falls on all road users to be cautious. Anything that doesn’t have lights is going to be much harder to see in the dark or bad weather conditions.

For this reason, it’s recommended that pedestrians use the pavements and footpaths available to them. Where this isn’t possible, you should walk on the right-hand side of the road in single file against the oncoming traffic. If you’re crossing the road, use a designated crossing if you can, take caution and use common sense.

Cyclists should make use of lights on their bikes as well as reflectors. In terms of clothing, pedestrians, cyclists, and horse riders should consider wearing something light and reflective. This will be particularly important in poorly lit areas or when the weather is bad.

Be considerate of others

Often, cyclists and horse riders may find themselves sharing space with pedestrians. Their position on the hierarchy means they still have a responsibility towards each other.

For this reason, cyclists should not pass pedestrians or horse riders closely or at a high speed. This is especially important if approaching from behind. This ensures that neither pedestrians nor horse riders and horses are startled or injured. You should also not pass a horse rider on the horse’s left, only the right.

The correct way to stay safe is to slow down and let people know of your presence. For most, this is by ringing your bicycle’s bell.

On the other hand, pedestrians need to be aware of their surroundings and not cause obstacles or endanger other road users. Road safety measures apply even to those at the top of the hierarchy.

Position in the road

The guidance for cyclists’ positioning in the road has also been updated with the new Highway Code. On a quiet road, in slow-moving traffic or on approach to junctions, cyclists should ride in the centre of the lane.

When the cyclist is riding on a particularly busy road where motorists are faster, the rules differ. Cyclists should keep 0.5 metres minimum (1.5 feet) away from the kerb. Sticking to these distances can help everyone better contribute to road safety.

Use the ‘Dutch reach’ to get out of your vehicle

What’s the ‘Dutch reach,’ I hear you ask? Motorists are being urged to use the ‘Dutch reach’ when they get out of their vehicle. This means using your far hand to open the door, which will naturally make you check over your shoulder. In looking this way, you’ll more easily be able to see if any other road users are approaching.

Cyclists are asked to leave one metre when cycling past parked cars, however, it’s also on the driver’s part to be vigilant. In getting out of the car in this way, it just provides that added security that it’s clear for you to open the door.

The two-second rule

When driving behind someone else, it’s important to keep a two-second gap between you. This ensures that if the vehicle in front suddenly brakes, you have time to react. In wet weather, this two-second gap increases to four. Simply because cars don’t have as much traction when it’s wet or there is standing water on the road.

In the case of snowy or icy weather, this gap increases again. It’s recommended to keep ten seconds between you and the driver in front. Stopping distances will be much greater and you will have more time to think and react.

The four and ten-second space is also helpful when it’s dark. Imagine a pedestrian suddenly steps out into the road and they’re wearing dark clothing. A larger gap gives you time to notice them and brake gently, avoiding aquaplaning or skidding.

Vehicle and bicycle condition checks

Vehicles and bicycles need a little bit more TLC in the winter time. With low temperatures, cold winds, ice, snow and rain, vehicle condition checks are imperative.

Vehicle breakdown service RAC suggests the acronym FORCES for checking your car throughout the winter. Fuel, oil, rubber, coolant, electrics, and screen wash make up the acronym to serve as a reminder. The same goes for lorries, buses, motorcycles and even cyclists. For bikes, this could mean checking tyres, cleaning and checking brake pads.

Reduce your speed

For those with the most responsibility to other road users, reducing your speed can make all the difference. It is the most common sense of all the road safety tips, but one that many don’t prioritise. In fact, speeding is a factor in one in three road crashes resulting in a fatality.

Slowing down by just 10mph can make all the difference. As an example, crashing at 30mph has twice the energy and causes twice the destruction of a crash at 20mph.

Check, check and check again

The last tip applies to all road users — pedestrians included. The best way to stay safe and avoid an accident is to double and triple-check before acting. This could be before crossing the road or overtaking a cyclist. Things change incredibly quickly on the road and just taking that extra second could save a life.

At Coodes, we have significant experience in dealing with a whole raft of cases involving road traffic and motorcycle accidents, fatal accidents, trips and slips on the highway, as well as animal injury claims involving horses. If you have been injured in a road traffic related incident, and need more information or advice, our personal injury team is on hand to help. You can get in touch by using the Contact Us form or by calling 0800 328 3282.

We also have a criminal law department with extensive experience of motoring law – for more information on motoring offences, including speeding, drink driving or death by dangerous driving visit our page on the website.

Mon 14th Nov 2022

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