Road Safety News

Campaign highlights distraction dangers for pedestrians

Monday 18th May 2015

A new campaign has been launched by Northumbria Police and Newcastle City Council in a bid to reduce the number of pedestrian collisions in Newcastle city centre.

The #distracted campaign aims to raise awareness of the dangers of not paying attention when crossing the road, following figures showing that the biggest cause of accidents in the city-centre is “failure to look properly when crossing the road” – usually through distractions such as mobile phones or listening to music through headphones.

Targeted at young people aged 18-22 years, the age group most affected, the campaign is using a combination of social media and bus shelter advertising in hotspot locations across the city-centre.

Councillor Nick Kemp, Newcastle City Council, said: "The rising number of accidents in the city-centre is a real concern to us.

“We started this campaign with Northumbria Police to highlight how a small change in your behaviour, such as looking before crossing the road, can make a real difference to your safety.

"As well as the campaign, we’re working with a number of partners to make our city-centre safe. We have engaged with the bus operators on safety issues, made engineering changes to junctions and crossings and introduced 20mph limits in key streets."

Winton Keenen, Northumbria Police’s deputy chief constable, said: "Motorists have a part to play in pedestrian safety and we would urge drivers to be alert to them.”


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The funny thing is, on the news item currently running elsewhere on this forum about giving cyclists more room I advocated the same thing i.e. motorists assuming responsibility for not hitting cyclists and got 9 agrees and 2 disagrees - do people actually know what they're agreeing and disagreeing to?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (1) | Disagree (2)

My gut feeling when the 'disagrees' appeared, was simply that some individuals felt that what I was proposing was not achievable (by them) and rather than try to aspire to it, simply disgareed in the hope that it might mean it was wrong. I would be interested to know though, if the 'disagrees' were the general public and simply only considering themselves, or whether it was 'road safety professionals' - if the latter group, then I am dismayed, but sadly, not surprised.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (0) | Disagree (4)

Road Safety GB has increased its hit rate considerably since it began. At times this can be a negative thing as it attracts more than just so called road safety experts – it includes the general public at large. It is also the general public at large who are concerned with their personal safety whilst using the roads, some of whom may take umbrage at individuals who support a certain line in their posts, and this can be reflected in a gut reaction using the agree/disagree facility. This in itself negates the purpose of such a facility and can cause the resented response such as you have shown.

Perhaps Road Safety GB has reached a point at which too much information is being displayed, and just clicking on the agree/disagree button simply saves time for a considered reply by some or many. Would Nick Rawlings consider removing the facility I wonder?
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

Agree (0) | Disagree (3)

Possibly Iain, but have they considered the elderly; the hearing/visually/mentally impaired; the inebriated/drugged; toddlers; wildlife/animals etc. - none of whom may be entirely responsible for their actions.

Pedestrians and cyclists should be responsible for their actions yes, but they're not going to harm me or write-off my car, but I can certainly cause them harm which I don't want to do, so my responsibility and priority when driving is not to hit anything or anyone, whatever they may do.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (2) | Disagree (0)

It sounds like you are trying to say that pedestrians or cyclists should have absolutely no responsibility for their own actions. I think that's why people are disagreeing.
Iain. Scotland

Agree (5) | Disagree (1)

I do seem to have touched a nerve. Since my last posting, it now seems that even more people - who I must presume are concerned in some way with road safety - do not think that motorists should be responsible for their actions. I would expect such a shameful and selfish attitude from certain motoring pressure groups, but this is Road Safety GB. If some of its members seemingly can't be bothered making the effort, what chance does the public - who we're trying to influence - have?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (0) | Disagree (6)

I don't know how many of the 14 who disagreed with me saying that the motorist should assume responsibility for not hitting pedestrians are actually involved in road safety, but even if it were just one, it makes me shudder and if this attitude is representative of road safety professionals generally - let alone the ordinary motoring public - then we are wasting our time. If those tasked with road safety don't even have the right attitude themselves, how can we expect to influence the general public?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (1) | Disagree (14)

This recent article explains the problem very well.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident

Agree (3) | Disagree (1)

The digital natives are not stupid David, they are merely following the programming that their brain evolved to do. We all crave novel information and for us digital immigrants it used to come to us quite slowly in the form of newspapers and posters etc. The digital native can recieve novel information at ten or even one hundred times the rate that we grew up with so where is their attention going to be focussed? The information update rate in the 'real' world is just too slow for the digital native which is why they are are almost oblivious to it.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

Agree (3) | Disagree (2)

That's the problem Nick - at present too many drivers are not prepared to drive with this obligation uppermost in their mind and therefore leave things to chance, the 'accidents will happen' mentality, blame the other party etc. so I wouldn't give the wrong message to your children just yet. This attitude should be instilled in drivers from the outset and it's the message which should be emphasised at every opportunity by the road safety industry.

By the way, my journey times are the same as everyone else's - it just requires anticipation, awareness and (fairly obviously) knowing how quickly one can bring one's particular vehicle to a stop and regulating one's speed to ensure this.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (3) | Disagree (6)

Nick's comments are apposite. The driver chooses a probability distribution of injury by their cruising speed. Only the pedestrian can decide whether or not to step off the kerb. It is the 'illusion of safety'. Any moving vehicle has a stopping envelope. A pedestrian can step into that in the time it takes to react. The speed of impact will be determined by the distance from the vehicle which for a pedestrian not looking will be essentially random. There is no safe speed in the presence of a pedestrian or other road user. The only question is how many accidents will be tolerated unless pedestrians are trained not just to look, but to never not look. At zero speed there will be no moving injuries but the purpose of traffic is defeated. At any speed above that, pedestrian failing to look will incur injuries. Decide how many you are willing to tolerate. The idea that a driver can avoid a pedestrian is disingenuous. At 10mph the envelope is 4.5m, and drivers regularly pass pedestrians inside that speed. Fully discussed in 'Experience Counts' on Amazon.
Andrew Mather, Kent

Agree (19) | Disagree (1)

In a forum such as this there is a danger in making a short post in that some of the complexities of the discussion are omitted, but here goes anyway.

In a similar vein to one of my earlier posts I would like to live in a world where everyone took equal responsibility for their actions and could expect others to be so minded. I might be exaggerating to make a point but I will not be going home tonight and explaining to my children that they will be safe crossing the roads tomorrow because the drivers have responsibility not to hit them. I now need to ring my wife to explain that I won't be home until midnight as the car part of my park & pedal journey home will now be conducted at walking pace so I am not a fault if an errant pedestrian/cyclist/car etc decides to enter my stopping envelope without looking. I guess at walking speed there is a chance they might still get hit if they are close enough to me but hey, I will live on the edge.....Now to work out how fast I should pedal so I do not hit any unleashed random motion dogs on the shared use track on the way home. Could be a long journey.
Nick, Lancashire

Agree (15) | Disagree (2)

I read Marc Prensky's paper with interest, and it seemed to make a lot of sense right up to the section in which he suggests that digital natives could experience, through the medium of a computer game, the real (in italics) horror of the concentration camps, rather than watch a film such as Schindler's List. I eagerly await a game that can replicate the experience of being starved and worked to death over a period of months, or of being herded off a train and into a gas chamber. Some of his valid views are at once contaminated by such nonsense.

Are digital natives so stupid that they cannot appreciate that it is dangerous to be distracted by a phone unless that information comes in the form of a computer game? Is he suggesting that there will cease to be such things as billboards on bus shelters? Yes, one could have a message delivered to one's phone just as one is about to step into the road at a Puffin Crossing when the red man is showing, but it seems to me to tend to increase the danger, rather than ameliorate things.

I suspect that today's digital natives will be just as out of step when attempting to educate the next generation, because the speed of progress will render their own ideas and systems obsolete within a short time. That will mean that there will always be a need for some information to be provided in a traditional manner, and this campaign seeks to do just that. Not everything needs to be in the form of an App if it is to be useful.
David, Suffolk

Agree (16) | Disagree (0)

As far as I am concerned Nick, if I choose to drive around in a potentially fast-moving machine capable of inflicting harm and damage to other, less robust, protected and slower moving road users, then I have to assume responsibilty for not colliding with them, even if it were their own foolhardy actions which set off the chain of events.
With regard to your example, why wouldn't the motorist have been able to stop? If the speed was slow enough and he/she were concentrating, why would contact not have been avoided? That's my whole point really - either they weren't concentrating enough and/or their speed was not slow enough to stop - assuming they tried.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (0) | Disagree (23)

In the situation I described i.e. a motorist fully concentrating and proceeding at an "appropriate" speed when a pedestrian (or for that matter a cyclist, other car, bus or HGV) moves into a position which is within the stopping distance of the first vehicle are you stating that they should have a greater requirement to explain their actions than the other party? To my logic, the actions of other party resulted in the collision. Would you be able to be convinced that any pedestrian casualty was the "fault" of the pedestrian? To my mind we should all be held equally responsible for the results of our actions - in some cases the "blame" may be on one party and other times shared.
Nick, Lancashire

Agree (20) | Disagree (1)

Sorry Nick (Lancashire), but I think in pedestrian accidents, the motorist should expect to have to explain why they were unable to avoid contact and not just simply blame the pedestrian. "He just stepped out in front of me!" should not be acceptable. The motorist needs reminding that their vehicle is easily capable of killing/injuring a pedestrian or other slower moving, vulnerable road user and must therefore accept responsibility for their actions, if they choose to drive/ride round in one.

Some pedestrians can be unpredictable and do put themselves at risk (as do motorists) but whatever they do, it's at a relatively slow pace, easily spotted and therefore easily avoided by the motorist - provided - the latter is concentrating, anticipating, scanning and going slow enough to be able to stop.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (4) | Disagree (16)

Referring to Nick of Lancashire’s comment;
His second paragraph suggests stating the obvious is required advice. It most certainly is. But the human brain is fickle, and the digital one fallible. If we demand scientific results and quantification for every single element in which we are involved, or to which we are presented, we will still not achieve a utopian result of no accidents or collisions. We can analyse and pontificate ‘til the cows come home, scratch out heads and get splinters, in the end perhaps Einstein lends a clue: “Everything that counts cannot always be counted, and that which can be counted doesn’t always count.” Albert Einstein.

Are we trying too hard in the wrong direction?
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

Agree (7) | Disagree (2)

Looks like a campaign which has used the Stats19 data to identify a problem and a group of the population involved together with a geographic area where the problem prevails. They then target messages to the group involved in places they will see them which if acted upon may reduce their chances of making the errors which would lead to them being injured. The campaign even takes into account many other potential factors in the targeted collisions as well as other participants without appearing to blame anyone.

Looks like a great example of a multi-disciplined approach to a problem. Sometimes the required advice is stating the obvious but it appears some people need reminding of the obvious otherwise there would be far fewer casualties on our roads.

If a pedestrian walks out in front of an approaching vehicle, within its stopping distance, which is travelling at an appropriate speed then is the driver at all at fault? I would say not so surely drivers have only a part to play and so do pedestrians. No one group alone can stop these collisions?

The interesting time will be when sufficient after data is available to see if casualties reduce after this intervention although other influences may contribute to the after data as well.

I take from Prensky that it is not fruitless to try to influence, educate or change the behaviours of digital natives, but rather a different approach is required. Looks like this campaign covers that by using social media in addition to more traditional communication channels?
Nick, Lancashire

Agree (14) | Disagree (0)

Unplug the digital, and re-invent the organic brain. All hail the paraffin lamp, and dolly tub, contact breakers and carburetors. It really has gone too far when such papers are taken seriously.
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

Agree (3) | Disagree (3)

Perhaps an app could be devised which senses movement by the user associated with walking, whereupon audio or visual alerts could jolt the user back into the real world making them alert to the possible danger of the traffic they were about to walk in front of. Still doesn't lessen the responsibility of the motorist though.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (3) | Disagree (2)

This little story perfectly illustrates the huge gulf that exists between how the road safety industry imagines the system should work and how the system actually does work.

There is a clear divide between digital immigrants and digital natives where the digital natives find updating their Facebook status as natural and essential as breathing, yet the digital immigrants simply do not understand how important these things are to them. To the digital native it is the outside world that's the distraction that takes them away from their real world of mobile phones and MP3 players and not the tech that's distracting them from the outside world. Of course the behaviourists will try to convince people that they can bring about behaviour change in the digital native, but as the digital native's brain is wired entirely differently to that of the digital immigrant this is going to be an entirely fruitless task.

There's a really great paper from Marc Prensky that should be essential reading for any digital immigrant that's interested in 'engaging' with digital natives as it shows just how huge the difference is between the two.,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

Agree (7) | Disagree (8)

Wow. "....looking before crossing the road, can make a real difference to your safety" and "Motorists have a part to play in pedestrian safety and we would urge drivers to be alert to them." Only a 'part to play'?? Real cutting edge stuff this.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (8) | Disagree (7)