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The most common mistakes active travellers make that put their lives in danger

  • Written by Simon Washington, AMAG CEO

PIONEERING scale-up Advanced Mobility Analytics Group (AMAG) is calling for the phasing out of historic methods that rely on crash data for managing pedestrian risk on our roads with more powerful, proactive methods enabled by Artificial Intelligence (AI), video analytics, and cloud and edge technologies. AMAG’s CEO, Simon Washington, has been studying the safety issues of pedestrians for the better part of the past 30 years, and has some advice on how to be a safe pedestrian.

Pedestrians represent about 20% to 30% of all fatalities in most developed countries and this proportion is increasing in many countries; so we all share an interest in providing a safer transport network for pedestrians, and for pedestrians to behave as safely as possible.

Before we address common mistakes pedestrians make that put their lives in danger, we need to address three concepts.

  1. Every pedestrian perceives their safety and security differently

  2. Road user safety measures the risk of pedestrian involvement in a crash at any particular point in time

  3. All road users are conditioned to expect other road users to behave in predictable and very specific ways. As a general rule, we are quite good at safely managing situations we expect and quite poor at safely managing situations we do not expect.

Applying these concepts, here are four things that pedestrians do that put their lives in danger, and ways to avoid them.

  1. Assume that motorists can see you beyond dusk.

Motorists expect that objects on the road are illuminated at dusk and at night, either with reflective lights or active illumination. Pedestrians, based on their experience during the day, expect that they are visible to motorists, even at night. These two expectations collide to form an unacceptable risk at night—motorists cannot see (unlit) pedestrians and pedestrians are not aware they cannot be seen. The same is true for bicyclists. Dark clothing in particular, might as well be an “invisibility cloak” for pedestrians.

To increase safety, pedestrians should wear bright or reflective clothing at night, behave as though they are invisible to motorists, and use only official pedestrian crossings where motorists expect to encounter pedestrians.

  1. Assume that all motorists will obey road rules, red lights, and speed limits.

Just because a pedestrian receives a walk indication at a crosswalk doesn’t mean that walking is safe. Drivers often run late into intersections, speed, and do not anticipate encountering a pedestrian. A pedestrian will always lose in a collision with a vehicle—so it doesn’t matter who is at a fault, safety is most important for the pedestrian, not being “right”.

To increase safety, pedestrians should always check that a crossing is clear by looking both ways for violating vehicles before stepping off the footpath, and always have awareness of moving vehicles around them, for extra precaution.

  1. Walk whilst distracted.

Distraction is increasingly common among pedestrians, including having a phone call, engaging or texting on your phone, and listening to music with earbuds. The main issue with distracted pedestrians is that their situational awareness is undoubtedly compromised and do not perceive their security appropriately; they do not realise that their crash risk has increased substantially as a result of distraction (the same is true of distracted motorists).

Distracted pedestrians have a higher tendency to not see, hear, or perceive real and true risks as quickly or as fully as non-distracted pedestrians. This has become increasingly acute with footpaths now shared with scooter users, bicyclists, and skaters.

To increase safety, pedestrians should avoid being distracted whilst walking, and instead focus on the walking environment. If a pedestrian chooses to be distracted, one must absolutely over-compensate for this increased risk by being hyper-aware of the surroundings, by wearing say only 1 earbud instead of 2, and by selectively choosing to self-distract only in the safest of environments.

  1. Walk where you are unexpected.

Motorists do not expect to see pedestrians on motorways, walking or standing on median strips, walking in the bicycle lane, etc. These kinds of areas are allocated to certain mode shares for the intent to improve safety. If you choose to travel through unexpected areas, you are putting yourself at risk as well as road users who may make adjustments to avoid you and impact other drivers on the road.

To increase safety, pedestrians should avoid places where motorists do not expect to see them, and use the infrastructure provided for them such as footpaths, marked crossings, and pedestrian lanes.

As motorists we have the responsibility to look out for vulnerable road users including pedestrians. Knowing these four things and how to avoid them will make us safer as pedestrians and motorists.

For further information on AMAG and their suite of products, visit:

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