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Road Safety

Autumn is here and the nights are starting to draw in. The October clock change signals the beginning of winter and the start of darker evenings.

One of the consequences of this is an increased risk to people’s safety on the roads. Vulnerable road users like children, the elderly, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists are particularly at risk of being involved in an incident.


Why are darker evenings dangerous?

Making sure you can be seen on the roads is crucial for your safety. This can be a real issue for children in school uniform, which unfortunately is often made up of dark colours. Older children travelling unaccompanied are particularly vulnerable, especially if their choice of coat is limited by school rules.

There are several reasons why there may be an increase in casualty rates in the darker winter evenings.

Firstly, pedestrians, cyclists, road signs, and other road users are simply harder to spot when it’s darker.

Drivers also tend be more tired first thing in the morning or after a day’s work and darkness also has an impact on our alertness, so concentration levels are lower at these times of day.

Both children and adults tend to make social or leisure trips in the evenings so in winter, these trips are more likely to be made in the dark.

What can you do?

There are many things that all road users can do to help keep everyone safe on our roads. Checkout Tales of the Road for ideas on keeping children and young people safe.

Motorists

  • Take more care and time looking for cyclists and people waiting to cross the roads
  • Don’t be distracted by mobile phones, loud music or other distractions
  • Plan your journey and leave plenty of time for your journey
  • Watch out for fallen leaves. They can be extremely slippery and act like standing water or ice if you brake on them. They may also hide potholes or other hazards. Make sure you clear leaves from the gully below your windscreen – so they don’t cause water to back up and get into your car’s electrics
  • Be aware that cyclists will want to avoid leaves and other debris, so may need to pull out or cycle in the centre of the lane

Vehicle preparation

  • Book your car in for a pre-winter check to make sure your tyres, brakes, wipers, heater and demisters are in good working order
  • Wiper blades should ideally be replaced every 2 years, and washer fluid needs to be topped up and treated with a good quality purpose-made antifreeze additive
  • Check you battery is in good condition. It’s one of the main causes of breakdowns throughout the year, but is particularly likely during the colder months. Now is a good time to think about replacing it before the winter
  • Keep your windscreen clean both inside and out, free from scratches, abrasions, chips and smears. The low morning or evening sun combined with a dirty windscreen can render it opaque, and even a few seconds of sun-blindness can cause an accident
  • Always allow extra time to fully demist and deice all windows before you set off.
  • Check your vehicle out! A new RoSPA video
  • Take a look at this factsheet that covers winter driving tips, including planning your journey, preparing your vehicle and putting together an emergency kit

Pedestrians

  • Wear bright/reflective clothing - Wearing bright or fluorescent colours will help on dull days, but it won’t when it gets dark
  • At night they need to wear something reflective – this will allow other road users to see them up to 150 metres sooner than they would have done have they not been wearing the reflective item
  • If school uniform rules don’t extend to outerwear, buy a brightly coloured coat with reflective panels. School bags are often available with high-visibility strips, and are easy to decorate with reflective covers, patches, clip-ons or lights. High-vis tabards are a cheap and flexible option that you can add to any outfit
  • Bike helmets and cycle clips are other areas that reflectors can be added to, and of course you should make sure that bikes have working front and rear lights, red rear reflectors and amber pedal reflectors
  • Making children more conspicuous is essential, as they’re smaller and less road-aware
  • However, being seen is just as important for teens and adults. Wearing something hi-vis may not be particularly cool, but it’s a simple thing to do to stay safe and sets a good example for the young people in your life
  • Cross the road in well-lit places and designated crossings
  • Don’t use phones or hand held devices whilst crossing the road

Cyclists

  • Wear Hi-Viz clothes
  • Make sure your lights are on and not dazzling drives or other road users
  • If your lights are rechargeable, make sure you have enough charge for your journey
  • Avoid using headphones whilst on your bike
  • Look behind before you turn, overtake or stop
  • Use arm signals before you turn right or left
  • Obey traffic lights and road signs

Horse riders

Horses are large powerful animals but they can easily panic and bolt if startled. The consequences to drivers, their car, the horse and its rider can be horrendous.

Motorists and horse riders both have a right to use the road and they also share a responsibility to consider each other's needs. However, horses are easily scared by noise and can panic around fast-moving vehicles. Consideration for other road users is key to avoiding accidents.

When a motorist passes a horse and rider, they should pass leaving plenty of space and driving slowly. All horses should be treated as a potential hazard; they can be unpredictable, despite the best efforts of their riders.

Advice for Horse Riders:

The bullet points below provide motorists with some simple tips on how best to safely pass a horse and rider on the road:

  • Slow down and be ready to stop if necessary
  • Look out for riders' signals to slow down or stop
  • Watch out for sudden movements, horses can be easily frightened and unpredictable
  • Don't sound your horn or rev your engine
  • If you're approaching from behind while cycling, call out a greeting to make horse and rider aware you are there
  • Pass wide and slow when overtaking; giving the horse plenty of room. Don’t accelerate rapidly once you have passed them
  • On roundabouts, horse riders will keep to the left within the roundabout until reaching their exit, when they will signal left. They will normally signal right only when approaching exits they don't intend to use
  • Watch this short clip on how to drive safe close to horses

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