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can of worms but... should pedestrians take some responsibility for their safety on the roads?

(32 Posts)
mumnosbest Tue 05-Feb-13 10:37:46

Just watching a discussion on one of our favourite daytime tv shows. A young girl was hit on a dark country lane by a responsible driver, driving safely under the speed limit. The insurers are arguing she should have made herself more visible (torch/high-vis jacket).
What do we think. In this day and age do we need a change in the law making pedestrians more responsible?

ItsAllGoingToBeFine Tue 05-Feb-13 10:44:06

A car drivers responsibility is always going to be greater as they are the ones driving a potential lethal weapon.

Victim blaming is as wrong here as it is in any circumstances. Unless she leapt in front of the car, it was the drivers fault whatever she is wearing.

As a driver it is your responsibility to drive in a cautious manner that assumes reasonable hazards may be around the next corner, and slow tractor, a deer, a horse and rider.

If it is dark you should be even more cautious as it is reasonable to assume these hazards will be harder to see.

mumnosbest Tue 05-Feb-13 10:54:24

I'd agree and do think blaming the victim is wrong however... I'm just starting to think that pedestrians could take a bit more responsibility (not blame in the case of an accident). Accidents are always going to happen, regardless of how responsible the driver is and what precautions the pedestrian has taken. It just seems sensible that as a pedestrian using a road, you would take precautions to make yourself as safe as possible.

lljkk Tue 05-Feb-13 11:01:28

it isn't that hard to get out of the way of a car on a dark country lane (DC & I do it all the time). Except in exceptional circumstances (drystone walls both sides? no headlights? Dead and blind pedestrian?) it's easy enough for the pedestrian to know car is coming & have time to get somewhere safe (unless pedestrian is deaf, too?).

So I think there's more to this story than we know.

lljkk Tue 05-Feb-13 11:01:55

*deaf I meant, not dead, although dead would account for it, too.

Snorbs Tue 05-Feb-13 11:20:00

It just seems sensible that as a pedestrian using a road, you would take precautions to make yourself as safe as possible.

But how far should that go? Mandatory body armour covered with high-vis reflective surfaces, flashing lights and a full-face helmet?

I think the issue here is that while it is advisable to make yourself visible, and that's something that's drummed into my DCs both at home and at school, it becomes very problematic if it becomes mandatory. Eg:

Should someone who gets hit by a car not be eligible for compensation for their injuries if they weren't wearing high-vis clothing?
Should the car driver be able to claim for the cost of repairs and hosing off the blood if the person he/she hit wasn't brightly conspicuous?
What if the car driver was speeding? Would the pedestrian's lack of high-vis clothing be more significant than the car's speed?

My ds2 and ds3 both do paper rounds, usually on their bikes, but sometimes on foot, and we have drummed into them the need to be seen. Their paper bags are made of reflective material, which is good, but we also insist on lights when they cycle.

I do think that we all have to take responsibility for our own safety - we learned how to cross a road safely, for example, and we teach our children the importance of road safety.

Recently, I was driving one of the dses up to school for an evening event, and a pedestrian went across the road in front of us, and he was practically invisible. I wasn't going fast, and was able to slow down, and he was crossing far enough ahead of me for me not to have to slam the brakes on - but it shocked my ds to see how invisible the pedestrian had been. I genuinely don't think people realise how difficult it is to see a pedestrian in dark clothing, even in a street-lit area.

The problem, of course, is when it comes to legal liability in the case of an accident - as you point out, Snorbs. Every driver should be aware that they are driving a lethal weapon, and should act accordingly - because they are likely to do more damage to whatever they hit than vice versa.

But pedestrians must also remember that drivers aren't psychic - if, for example, you are driving along an unlit country road, with no pavements, where you rarely come across a pedestrian, you are going to be less likely to expect to come across a pedestrian than if you are in a more built-up area, and unless everyone drives everywhere at 15mph, some accidents are going to happen.

If a pedestrian behaves in an unsafe manner, and is injured by a car whose driver is driving with due care and attention, but simply cannot stop in time to prevent the accident, should they get less compensation? That is a really difficult question - the unpopular answer would be yes. But the burden of proof, imo, is always going to be on the driver, as the person who is in control of the lethal weapon, to prove that he or she could not have prevented the accident and that the sole cause of it was the pedestrian's actions.

HighJinx Tue 05-Feb-13 12:14:48

I think it would be a very good thing if people in general were encouraged to take more responsibility for their own safety.

I agree with lijkk that it is normally not difficult to step off the road onto a verge when walking along an unlit country lane. And I would be particularly careful as a pedestrian approaching a corner for example as the driver may not see me until the last minute.

Yes drivers have a duty of care but surely pedestrians also have a responsibility to reduce risk where possible too.

KirstyJC Tue 05-Feb-13 12:22:18

I think pedestrians do have a responsibility to make themselves safe, just as car drivers have a responsibility to make sure they drive in as safe a manner as possible. I see so many people walking out into a road without looking, often wearing headphones too - so they can't see or hear.

Our road has a sharp bend where there are no pavements and only wide enough for one vehicle. The amount of pedestrians who walk out blindly is unbelievable - I am just waiting to hear about a death, it can only be a matter of time I'm suresad. Especially as double-decker buses and lorries frequently use that road.

I would however like to see walking behind a reversing vehicle made illegal - I have lost count of how many times people have done this to me in supermarket carparks and on the school run. When a vehicle is moving and the reverse lights are on - wait people, wait - don't walk in out front of it FFS!!!

OneHandFlapping Tue 05-Feb-13 12:23:17

Pedestrians walking along unlit country lanes DO need to take responsibility for being visible. You can't just throw it back onto the car driver,and say they've got to drive more defensively.

Somone in dark clothes, with no lights or reflectors is just NOT visible to a driver on dipped headlights until you are almost on top of them, even at 30. <voice of recent experience>. How slow do you expect drivers to go?

Maybe cars need reversing alarms, like lorries, Kirsty?

specialsubject Tue 05-Feb-13 13:04:27

yes, pedestrians do need to make themselves more visible. That way there might be fewer accidents to argue about.

going along staring at the mobile phone or with ears plugged with loud music is also a Darwin award waiting to happen.

As I have pointed out to ds3 on several occasions, specialsubject. But he does that teenage-y eye rolling thing because he is, of course, immortal. hmm

PhilMcAverty Tue 05-Feb-13 13:09:27

I think that they should take some responsibility. As a cyclist I've had pedestrians step out onto cycle track without looking more times than I can count almost causing me to crash. I'm always alert around pedestrians, but a bit of thought wouldn't hurt.

My DS has high-vis stickers on the back of his coat. It's only sensible to make yourself as visible as possible.

MousyMouse Tue 05-Feb-13 13:11:56

I sort of agree.
pedestrians should more visible, esp children.
I think it should be illegal to sell children's outer clothing without plenty of reflective material.
however, drivers have a duty of care as explained by quite a few previous posters. after all they have a drivers licence and therefore know that they are operating a dangerous thing and that they should be extra careful.

mumnosbest Tue 05-Feb-13 13:43:11

grin @ snorbs in her flashing body armour (half dalek half christmas tree)

Apparently this youngster had just returned from riding her horse so maybe should have had some highway code awareness but still just a kid. She did also have earphones plugged in so couldnt hear the car. However just read up that the car was below the 50mph limit. Maybe we ought to focus on lowering limits in the dark or poor visability.

EmmelineGoulden Wed 06-Feb-13 13:18:36

When you drive you're in charge of a machine that cn easily cause a lot of damage, that puts the onus on the driver. It isn't the pedestrian that is threatening anyone.

The girl probably did take some responsibility for her safety, and she's certainly paying a cost for the accident. There may well have been other things she could have done and I'll bet now she wishes she had, but that doesn't mean she should be required to do them.

I think laws and decisions that put the onus on the pedestrian just set up a culture that accepts more reckless driving. Pedestrians have plenty of incentive to be safe, they won't all choose the same levels of risk, but that doesn't mean they should be more responsible for the costs of those who actually cause the damage. It's drivers that create the risk, they are the ones the law should focus on making responsible.

Matsikula Wed 06-Feb-13 20:45:02

This isn't about the driver's behaviour and criminal culpability though, it's about the insurance company not wanting to pay out. It is the fundamental law of the road that the least vulnerable users have to take the most responsibility. That's why we have compulsory insurance for drivers. If you erode that principle, then pedestrians will end up having to take out insurance too.

diddl Thu 07-Feb-13 08:44:41

I thought that the driver was judged to be going too fast?

It was a dark country road near stables-surely usual speed limits don´t apply?

She was also exonerated of any "blame".

So, whilst a hi vis jacket might have been a good idea, it doesn´t make what happened any more her fault or any less the driver´s fault.

She also wasn´t walking where he should have been driving-she wasn´t on the road!

I was brought up in the country from the age of 10. No street lights, and no pavements for the most part, so if you were walking somewhere, you walked on the road or the verge. But because everywhere was further from everywhere else, iyswim, there were very few pedestrians, especially at night, and I would guess that that is still the case, so it would be understandable if the driver thought that the likelihood of coming across a pedestrian was low, and drove accordingly. At night, in the country, you can drive for miles without seeing a single living creature on or near the road.

None of which excuses what he did, but it does go towards explaining it a bit, I think.

I honestly believe that we all have to be safety-conscious. No-one is ever going to prioritise my own safety more highly than I do - but I know that I also have a responsibility for the safety of others too.

niceguy2 Thu 07-Feb-13 12:49:33

Of course they should. Years ago I was driving down the road when a girl ran straight out in the middle of the road between two parked cars, hit the side wing of my car and went over the bonnet.

But in this particular case I'm not so sure. Because at what point do you say enough visibility is enough? As snorbs said, do we all have to wear flashing neon lights with high vis jackets?

Just because he was driving at the speed limit does not mean he is absolved of blame. The limit is as the word suggests...the LIMIT. If road conditions were dark and the road was straight then he should have used his full beams. If there was a car the other way then both sets of lights should be enough to see the child. If the road was twisty turny then 30mph may have been an inappropriate amount of speed.

Difficult to say but I don't want to see kids being made a scapegoat here to save a few quid which is how it reads at the moment. Certainly makes me not want to give Churchill my business.

SnowBusiness Thu 07-Feb-13 13:08:20

Wasn't she on the verge, which he drove onto after overtaking?

momb Thu 07-Feb-13 13:16:15

Actually she was on the verge: he'd pulled on to the grass to allow another vehicle to pass on the lane. He was under the speed limit as it was a 60mph country lane but this does not mean that he was going at an appropriate speed (over 50) when he hit the child walking along. She wan't wearing hi viz: he wasn't driving on the road. If there had been a pavement there would be no case. The insurers are saying that as she rode horses she should have known to wear hi viz. She didn't hack on the roads, only on the field and therefore didn't have hi viz.
This case has huge ramifications for liability of children in accidents, and is, imo driven by the insurers to put a grey area into legislation for future cases. In this case he mounted the verge at 50mph, and she is brain damaged and needs constant care. The original findings should stand.

lljkk Thu 07-Feb-13 17:07:53

Thanks for the clarification, Momb. I knew it wasn't a simple case of pedestrian staying in middle of road as driver approach a bend or some such. I agree the driver was at fault.

complexnumber Thu 07-Feb-13 18:30:32

You don't deliberately pull onto a grass verge at anywhere around 50 miles an hour to allow another car to pass. You have no idea what is in there, ditches, flytipped junk etc. It sounds more like the driver was driving inappropriately fast for the road and mounted the verge when he met another car on the single track road to avoid a collision, then hit the girl. The judge found the driver 100% at fault. I'd say there's a reason.

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