Protecting vulnerable road users

19 November 2018
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As personal injury specialists with expertise in road traffic accidents, we’re supporting Road Safety Week 2018 which raises awareness of safety on UK roads. We encourage road safety consideration, which starts with understanding who vulnerable road users are.

Road users can be described as vulnerable for a number of reasons, from lessened protection in traffic to capability restrictions. The majority of vulnerable road users have a higher casualty rate and should therefore be given extra attention.


Pedestrians: Children and the elderly

Pedestrians are considered some of the most vulnerable road users, with a significant lack of protective shell and a major difference in speed compared to motorised traffic. More specifically, the older and younger generations are most at risk due to inexperience in children and declining capability of the elderly, along with physical vulnerability.

What to be aware of

Children are easily distracted and may dash into the road, misjudging the speed and intentions of drivers. At the same time, older generations can have difficulties hearing or seeing approaching traffic and their reduced mobility may slow them down when crossing roads.

How you can help

  • Give pedestrians time and space - your speed can make a major difference
  • Be ready for the unexpected and slow down through towns and villages
  • Stop at zebra crossings if pedestrians are waiting or approaching
  • Avoid waving pedestrians across the road - there may be traffic which will overtake you
  • Remember how you wish to be treated as a pedestrian


Two wheels: Cyclists and motorcyclists

Like pedestrians, road users on two wheels are significantly less protected to external forces than car drivers and passengers. And whilst they use the roads in a similar way, they are much less visible road users. They are most vulnerable at junctions and roundabouts due to cars’ blind spots. Cyclists and motorcyclists are easily affected by side winds, on bridges, in exposed areas and particularly when being overtaken.

What to be aware of

Cyclists may ride some distance from the kerb to avoid drains and potholes, and cannot move off as quickly in stationary traffic. Meanwhile, motorcyclists are sometimes travelling at faster speeds than anticipated. In a crash between a car and a cyclist, the survival rate of a cyclist increases dramatically when the car’s collision speed decreases. Accidents involving a motorcycle account for 19% of total road accident casualties.

How you can help

  • Expect to see cyclists and motorcyclists on the road, particularly in dry weather
  • Check your mirrors and blind spots - be extra mindful when turning left at roundabouts
  • Give plenty of room when overtaking
  • Avoid overtaking cyclists if you are turning left straight after
  • Respect cycle lanes and advance stop lines


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Horse riders

Whilst horse riders prefer to avoid using roads, they are still entitled to and may need to in order to reach bridleways and riding schools. Horses have an equal right to be on the road as other road users and if it may seem that they are taking up most of the road, it is for all road users’ safety.

What to be aware of

Horse riders are known to ride in double file to protect beginner or young riders, as well as nervous horses. Despite being strong animals which can weigh more than half a tonne, horses may be easily spooked by the sights and sounds of busy traffic.

How you can help

  • Anticipate horse riders when approaching bends and on narrow rural roads
  • Drive slowly past horses, giving them plenty of space
  • Be patient and prepared to stop
  • Keep engine noise as low as possible and do not sound the horn unless necessary
  • Be aware that horse riders may not move to the centre of the road before turning right


Other road users with increased vulnerability include learner drivers and elderly drivers. Approach with more caution, be patient and concentrate on your own driving. Drivers should take care to prevent collisions with all vulnerable road users, because a less-protected road user will always come off worse.


Statistics provided by RoSPA, GovUK and the British Horse Society. Banner by Ellie at Thanet Primary School.


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