Road Safety News

Alcohol contributes to rise in pedestrian casualties on north east roads

Tuesday 1st October 2013

Alcohol has been identified as a major contributing factor to a 12% increase in the number of incidents involving adult pedestrians on roads in the north east of England.

In response, Road Safety GB North East region has launched a new campaign, Check Out Before You Step Out, to coincide with the onset of dark nights when the number of pedestrian incidents typically rises.

Of the 3,328 adults involved in pedestrian accidents across the region during the last five years, almost half of them involved people aged between 16 and 35; 78 of these casualties were fatality injured and 756 were seriously injured. Adults also account for almost nine out of 10 of total pedestrian fatalities on the region’s roads, and adult pedestrian incidents on the region’s roads increased 12% in 2012.

A large number of incidents occur during the winter months and during the hours of darkness, particularly over Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights when young people are out drinking. The highest numbers occur in large towns and cities; Newcastle has had the greatest number, followed by County Durham, Sunderland, Northumberland and Gateshead.

Check Out Before You Step Out uses traditional media and social media including Facebook and Twitter to raise awareness among pedestrians and drivers, and specifically targets colleges, universities and licensed premises.

Each of the region’s 12 road safety officers will also promote the campaign in their towns and cities, and ask businesses and colleges to display posters and distribute flyers.

Alan Kennedy, road safety manager at Durham County Council and chairman of Road Safety GB, said alcohol and failing to pay attention were two of the major contributing factors, with young people aged between 16 and 24 accounting for a third of the victims.

He said: “Young adults who are out after dark, particularly those that are drinking, are most at risk, so we’re urging them to look after themselves and to keep their friends and family safe, too.

“Drivers must also take responsibility and pay particular attention to pedestrians. People are not always easy to see at night or at times of poor weather, so we would appeal to drivers to take extra care and to watch their speed.

“Pedestrians have no protection, so a car travelling just a few miles over the speed limit can have a catastrophic effect.

“Our message to everyone this winter is to stay alert and stay alive.”

For more information contact Karen Westcott at DTW on 01287 610404.


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I found this page whilst researching whether or not pedestrians that are drunk, or just walk out in dark conditions into the road, are legally responsible for their own actions. On a daily basis I see pedestrians just walk out from behind cars or into the road in the dark; this can cause even the careful drivers to be startled and brake or either swerve because of instinctive reaction - this can be dangerous for drivers. If you, as a driver, have a child in the car when someone walks out it can be very unnerving. A friend of mine has recently killed someone that walked out into the road/crossing the road and the victim was very intoxicated. We are all awaiting CPS' decision on prosecution. So I am trying to find the Law statute that may cover a driver if a victim (pedestrian) has/may have failed to take personal responsibility because of intoxication on the road. Does the USA not have jay-walking laws?
Sam West Midlands

Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

Hope I didn’t give the impression I was defending the drunk’s right to stagger carefree around the road! I would be no more sympathetic to a drunk who came to grief in this way than the next man - however the fact is, a drunk is not responsible for their actions any more than a toddler is, or someone with dementia, or an animal even. I’m just illustrating the fact that as motorists, we do have to be ready for anything and the unpredictable actions of pedestrians shouldn’t excuse careless, inattentive driving. If I hit a pedestrian, it wouldn’t make me feel any better knowing they were drunk. I would probably see it as a failure on my part for not having driven defensively enough.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (9) | Disagree (4)

The Highway Code is full of references to drivers watching out for vulnerable road users - pedestrians, cyclists, and even animals, and moderating speed in anticipation they may do something stupid. Therefore any licence holder objecting to this campaign is objecting to something they agreed to do as a condition of accepting their licence. This is nothing new: successive commentators have told us how having to look out for those numbers in red circles and abide by them is distracting, even though they have already agreed to do so. But let us remember that the same roads that “steal the mobility of the young and elderly to travel actively” also enable the elderly to continue independent existence and offer access to an extraordinary range of development opportunities for the young, not to mention playing a significant role in economic prosperity. Quite clearly there can be synergies between strategies that complement each other but some aspects of road use are contradictory and compromise is necessary. At a tactical level we have to set prime and overriding objectives to what we do otherwise we will simply debate our way into inaction.
Tim Philpot, Wolverhampton

Agree (7) | Disagree (1)

Hugh Jones, while I agree completely that drivers ought to accept more responsibility for crashes involving pedestrians, it cannot be right that an intoxicated pedestrian should expect to stagger around on, or near to, roads without some sort of personal responsibility. I do not drink & drive because I fear losing my licence; I do so because I fear being involved in a crash. Why should drunks on foot not feel the same way?
David, Suffolk

Agree (14) | Disagree (0)

Rod's reference to HA's obligations and responsibilties backed by legislation is relevant, but then we also have the motorised road users's obligations and responsibilties - also backed by legislation - not forgetting the Highway Code of course. And whilst the HAs do have powers and resources to improve things as they think necessary, how far are they expected to go? When it comes down to it, they're not behind the wheel.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (5) | Disagree (0)

You cannot compare the rail network to the road network. The roads are a shared space with pedestrians, buses, bicycles, commercial vehicles and cars all expecting to use it in safety. Any one group expecting everyone else to stay out of their way only leads to tragedy. There has to be an attitude of shared responsibility for a shared space.
Bill, Belfast

Agree (9) | Disagree (0)

The suggestion that the pedestrian may be going to use sustainable public transport is interesting. As we are talking about night time economy, how many were struck by private hire and taxis? These are the most numerous in city centres at night.
Olly, Lancs

Agree (5) | Disagree (1)

I am astonished and disappointed to see that the highest number of 'disagrees' on this thread, relate to those comments which suggest that the motorist could and should accept more responsibilty for pedestrian accidents. If we don't press this home to motorists, the problem is not going to go away.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (6) | Disagree (6)

At the introduction of the drink drive legislation there was an upward blip of pedestrian incidents where alcohol was related. This was put down to the drivers not wanting to break the law becoming pedestrians and then being hit by other drivers.
Having read all the comments I believe road safety officers have a remit to reduce casualties and not deal with health issues like respiratory disease as we, according to section 39, analyse accidents and not medical data. That said we work in partnership with engineers, police officers and health professionals and should be considering the impact of any intervention on accidents, general health and welfare of the community. I applaud the north east for identifying this issue and taking action. Alcohol induced road accidents, whether as drivers, passengers or pedestrians, is on the rise and maybe we should be lobbying for raising the price of drinks to help eradicate this. The debate about speed does not belong here.
Peter London

Agree (19) | Disagree (1)

If it's an item about reducing pedestrian fatalities - whether alcohol-triggered or not - a mention of the prevailing speeds of the traffic and therefore the speed limit, must be relevant surely?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (7) | Disagree (8)

Another strand to this for discussion, is what is the responsibility of the traffic authority and its duty to improve safety under the Road Safety Act 1988 Section 39.

Section 39(3) Each relevant authority:
(a) Must carry out studies into accidents arising out of the use of vehicles
(b) Must in the light of those studies, take such measures as appear to the authority to be appropriate to prevent such accidents,...

In addition there was the case of Yetkin v Newham 2010 in civil law where its was held that :-
Highway authorities owe a duty to all road users (whether careful or negligent) to use reasonable care in the manner in which they exercise their powers when creating or maintaining road and highways.

Hence, is it sufficient for Newcastle City Council to conduct education exercises, or should there be some changes in road usage to protect such negligent road users and prevent such casualties? ie closure to vehicles, etc.

And, of course if there is a duty of care for those late night revellers in their "elective" leisure, how does this compare to the duty of care to protect children who have no choice other than to use the public realm when walking cycling to school?
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (6) | Disagree (6)

The best way to reduce pedestrian accidents and incidents on the road is to educate pedestrians to keep off the road and walk on the pavement. Cross the road when it is safe and use pedestrian crossings correctly. Stop blaming the driver every time. If you walked accross a railway line and got hit by a train, whose fault would it be? Or should we reduce the trains to 20mph as well just in case!
Jack. Doncaster

Agree (20) | Disagree (10)

Can we pls stick to the main focus of this story, which is alcohol-related pedestrian fatalities, rather than having another debate about the merits or otherwise of 20mph limits/zones. Thanks for your cooperation.
Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety News

Agree (19) | Disagree (2)

Coming back to the issue of city centres and pedestrians who have limited visual, spatial and looming acuity and compromised decision-making processes due to alcohol, do we think its wise to have a speed limit of 30mph in such places?
Rod King 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (11) | Disagree (15)

Wrong Eric
I have been denying your claim that "20mph limits cause increased KSIs" period. You have not made the case for anything other than cherry picked and isolated small numbers and certainly not demonstrated any causality. The benefits of 20mph limits beyond casualty reduction are not "instead of" but "in addition to". When you get your act together and start doing some peer reviewed research and publishing it then we can all take your claim more seriously.
Rod King 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (17) | Disagree (10)

Road Safety and Casualty Reduction work is not undertaken in isolation and neither should it be. To be effective it must be integrated with the wider fields of traffic management and engineering, education, planning and sustainable travel as well as with enforcement.

Many teams, like my own, have these different disciplines under one roof and work together. This means that we do not look at, for example, a sustainable travel proposal without also looking at the potential road safety implications and impact on other road users. A proposed development site will be considered for road user safety, sustainable travel and other factors as part of the process.

Evidence for the effectiveness (or otherwise) of any scheme needs to be clearly defined by what the aims of the scheme were, whether it met those aims including if not, why not and proposed remedies, and to report on any other additional effects that are identified and evidenced.
Honor Byford, North Yorkshire

Agree (14) | Disagree (0)

This is a worrying development. For some time Rod King has been denying the increased serious injuries resulting from his 20mph experiment for some less tangible "social benefits". Broadening road safety to embrace public health and pollution would legitimise the 20mph casualties. The Harrogate debate in November asks if 20mph makes our roads safer, and that must be measured in deaths and injuries through collisions.
I caution RSGB getting drawn into a wider remit which will leave real road safety playing second fiddle. I look forward to the debate.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (12) | Disagree (18)

Hi Rod,

Thank you for your comment, Rod. I agree with you entirely. We have a much greater role to play. I was simply stating what the current position is, generally, but it is changing. I am aware that in some areas road safety teams and sustainable travel teams are merging, and now that Public Health has become part of local authority structure, those links will start to be forged without doubt. As it happens, I have called a meeting with my public health team next month to debate where we can be of benefit to each other, working together in a holistic way for the benefit of the whole community. So I am with you.
Alan Kennedy - Chairman Road Safety GB

Agree (22) | Disagree (9)


I think that your "remit" is one that needs debating. Many people see "road safety" going far beyond direct casualties on the roads. It should include all the indirect casualties to individuals from the use of the roads. That includes those with respiratory diseases from pollution, the elderly and young who have their mobility and freedom to travel actively "stolen" from them from high volume and high speed vehicles, and the many who suffer because of over use of motor vehicles in what are public spaces.

Maybe Road Safety Professionals should embrace the new involvement of public health at local authority level and extend their involvement far wider than just direct road casualties. They have nothing to lose, but our communities have everything to gain from their skills and experience being deployed for such purposes.
Rod King 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (16) | Disagree (20)

Alan: I think Caroline is simply reinforcing the view that with respect to the vulnerable road user, the (sober) motorised road user must learn to accept ultimate responsibilty for their actions and drive vigilantly as, whilst peds can be unpredictable - drunk or not - it's the vehicle that will do the damage to them and not the other way round. Peds should not be absolved of responsibilty obviously, but as motorists, let's not forget we're in charge of a moving lethal weapon.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (13) | Disagree (18)

Caroline, for many many years we have targetted drivers to not drink and drive and we have been relativly successful in changing attitudes and behaviours. We have also had the enforcement arm to assist in dealing with those that refuse to change. However, we are now seeing (at least in the north east)a significant rise in pedestrian casualties where the pedestrian is affected by alcohol and it is a significant causation factor. Should we just ignore this and continue to target the vast majority of drivers who do not drink and drive but who become involved in an incident due to errant pedestrians? We all have to take responsibility.
Alan Kennedy - Chairman Road Safety GB

Agree (30) | Disagree (2)

Katja, thank you for your comment. The remit of Road Safety GB is primarily to reduce road casualties by raising awareness and improving skills of road users. At present we have no remit for Sustainable Travel promtion. I do agree with you that there are possibly too many cars on the road, but we have what we have and we need to improve driving standards. The campaign does actually aim messages at drivers as well as pedestrians. Our evidence clearly shows that in many of these incidents, pedestrians are taking too many risks and putting themselves in danger. We all have to take responsibility for our own safety.
Alan Kennedy - Chairman Road Safety GB

Agree (27) | Disagree (0)

Surely the main object of this campaign should be drivers, who are operators of vehicles that can pose significant danger to others? They need to be alert to people (possibly other drivers) who may be walking to catch public transport having had a drink. People who have had a drink may have slower reactions therefore a careful and competent driver should drive with extra care at times that people are likely to be walking on the streets having had a drink. The victim blaming of pedestrians is unacceptable.
Caroline Russell, London

Agree (9) | Disagree (25)

Another "road safety" campaign that is not tackling the root cause: drivers and car over-use.
Katja Leyendecker, Newcastle

Agree (8) | Disagree (33)