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How to prevent pedestrian accidents

Charl Grobler
January 25, 2018

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Pedestrian accidents are a massive concern in South Africa due to poor infrastructure and excessively bad driving habits, but there are some things you can do to avoid these or at least minimise damage.

According to the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), the number of fatalities on South African roads increased by 10% last year (the 2017 report will be released early next year). That is a massive increase and, according to the RTMC’s annual report, pedestrians account for 38.4% of all road fatalities, whilst vehicle passengers account for 32.7% and drivers for 25.6%.

When you look at the stats, it’s clear that local road conditions are in poor shape, but infrastructure and unroadworthy vehicles are responsible for only a small portion of the death toll on local roads. Data collected by the RTMC indicates that 80% of all fatal accidents are caused by human error – which means they can’t be blamed on external factors – we’re responsible.

Accounting for nearly 40% of road fatalities, it’s clear that pedestrian accidents are a major concern on our roads. Many factors are to blame, ranging from poor infrastructure (pedestrian crossings are sparse), poor law enforcement (not enough is done to discourage pedestrians from illegally crossing highways), all-round poor driving skills (many drivers don’t slow down or stop at pedestrian crossings), and alcohol consumption (drivers and pedestrians).

Most of us know that many of the intrinsic problems are not going to be solved quickly, and it’s up to drivers and pedestrians to be as vigilant as possible to avoid such accidents.

According to Arrive Alive, motorists need to be aware of the following:

  • Highways are, unfortunately, a common place for pedestrians to cross in SA. Be aware that many informal settlements are situated alongside main roads and that there are often no formal points of crossing or pedestrian bridges.
  • Don’t speed near these settlements and residential areas - be prepared to slow down.
  • Just because you’ve seen a pedestrian, doesn’t mean they’ve seen you – slow down if people are next to the road as you can’t predict what they will do, especially small children.
  • Be careful near places where buses or taxis are parked next to the road – passengers might be crossing to or from this point. They could be distracted (checking their phones, as most people do these days), so stay alert.
  • Stop for pedestrians who are on or approaching your side of the road at a pedestrian crossing, even if it is not clearly marked. When you stop for a pedestrian at a crossing, stop well back so that drivers in the other lanes can also see the pedestrian in time to stop.
  • Always remember: cars stopped in the street may be stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross. Do not pass if there is any doubt!
  • When you are turning, you often will have to wait for a "gap" in traffic. Beware that while you are watching for that "gap", pedestrians may have moved into your intended path – this is a very common type of accident.

In addition to the above tips, South African motorists should keep pedestrian safety in mind when buying new cars as well. Most new cars have crumple zones designed to do minimal damage in the event of a pedestrian accident, and some have warning systems (such as park assist technology) that warns you if something, or someone, is in the vehicle’s path.

It may sound a bit ‘too much’ to add pedestrian safety to your checklist when shopping for a new set of wheels, but the reality is that 38.4% of all road deaths last year were pedestrians – a clear indication that everyone needs to their part to start reducing the number of pedestrian accidents on our roads.

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Keep safe on the South African roads. Download our Guide to Road Safety   for expert tips and advice to help you and your loved ones have many safe and happy kilometers in your car.
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