Australia has a vibrant road network that caters to various modes of transport.
However, this network poses significant risks to some road users, particularly vulnerable ones.
Vulnerable road users are those who are at a higher risk of injury or fatality in a road accident. They include pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists.
This article explores the risks facing vulnerable road users in Australia and how to reduce them.
Pedestrians are the most vulnerable road users, especially in urban areas. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, in 2017-2018, 167 pedestrians died in Australia, accounting for 14% of all road fatalities.
The majority of pedestrian fatalities occurred in urban areas, with 75% occurring on roads with a speed limit of 60 km/h or less.
Some of the factors contributing to pedestrian fatalities include:
- Distracted driving: Drivers who are distracted by their phones, radios, or other activities are less likely to notice pedestrians crossing the road.
- Poor visibility: Pedestrians are less visible at night, or in low light conditions, such as during sunrise or sunset.
- Jaywalking: Pedestrians who cross the road outside designated crossings put themselves at a higher risk of being hit by a vehicle.
To reduce the risks facing pedestrians, the following measures can be undertaken:
- Improved road design: Roads can be designed with pedestrian crossings, speed bumps, and raised pedestrian crossings to enhance pedestrian safety.
- Improved lighting: Installing streetlights and pedestrian crossing lights can improve visibility for pedestrians and drivers alike.
- Education: Pedestrians should be educated on the importance of using designated crossings, adhering to traffic signals, and avoiding distractions while crossing the road.
Cycling is an increasingly popular mode of transport in Australia, with more than 1.4 million Australians cycling regularly.
However, cyclists are also vulnerable road users, with 48 cyclists dying on Australian roads in 2017-2018.
Some of the factors contributing to cyclist fatalities include:
- Close overtaking: Drivers who overtake cyclists too closely put them at risk of being hit by the vehicle or forced off the road.
- Dooring: Cyclists who ride too close to parked cars are at risk of being hit by a door that suddenly opens.
- Poor road conditions: Poorly maintained roads, potholes, and debris can cause cyclists to lose control of their bikes.
To reduce the risks facing cyclists, the following measures can be undertaken:
- Improved road design: Roads can be designed with dedicated cycling lanes, separate from vehicle traffic.
- Education: Cyclists should be educated on the importance of wearing helmets, using hand signals to indicate their movements, and obeying traffic signals.
- Legislation: Laws can be introduced to penalise drivers who overtake cyclists too closely or open car doors without checking for approaching cyclists.
Motorcyclists are also vulnerable road users, with 213 dying on Australian roads in 2017-2018.
Some of the factors contributing to motorcyclist fatalities include:
- Speed: Motorcyclists who speed or ride recklessly are at a higher risk of being involved in an accident.
- Inexperience: Inexperienced motorcyclists are more likely to be involved in an accident due to their lack of knowledge and skills.
- Other drivers: Motorcyclists are at risk of being hit by other drivers who fail to see them, especially at intersections.
To reduce the risks facing motorcyclists, the following measures can be undertaken:
- Improved road design: Roads can be designed with motorcycle-specific lanes and dedicated parking to enhance motorcyclist safety.
- Education: Motorcyclists should be educated on the importance of wearing protective gear, obeying traffic signals, and riding defensively.
- Legislation: Laws can be introduced to penalise drivers who fail to give way to motorcyclists or change lanes without checking for approaching motorcyclists.
Vulnerable road users are at a higher risk of injury or fatality in a road accident. Pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable on Australian roads. However, the risks facing them can be reduced through improved road design, education, and legislation. It is essential to prioritise the safety of vulnerable road users to ensure that Australia’s road network is safe and accessible for all.