Drivers Fact Sheets

Driving In The City

The emphasis in road safety is slowly shifting towards cutting deaths on rural roads, but urban roads are still where most accidents involving injury happen.

Driving in a busy town can be very stressful if you’re not used to it. Give yourself plenty of time to get to where you’re going, especially if it’s an important appointment as there may be delays.

Planning

Before you travel have a look at the street map of the area and take a note of the larger street names, so you know you’re heading in the right direction. Satellite navigation is a great help if your car has it. If not, have a street map in the car in case you get lost, so you can pull in to the side (safely) and recheck the map.

If you find yourself in the wrong lane don’t panic. You can always go around in a square and retrace your route back to where you went wrong. If there’s time, wait for a suitable gap and rejoin the correct lane.

Queues

In a traffic queue leave enough room between you and the car in front so you can move out if they break down. As a rough guide you should be able to see the bottom of the rear tyres of the vehicle in front of you.

Concentrate, as running into the back of the vehicle in is the second most cause of accidents in Cities. Don’t take the opportunity to nip into a gap that someone has left for safety either.

If you’re stuck in a queue of traffic, you may even consider switching off your engine to conserve fuel and to prevent the car overheating.

Speed

Speeding is the main cause of accidents in urban areas. Drive slowly and carefully.

Be alert for school areas and don’t park on the marked area outside them. Be careful of children running across the road without looking.

There may be variable speed limits in some areas, e.g. schools may have 20mph limits outside them just at times when children are about. Make sure you keep an eye out for changes in speed limits.

Pedestrians

Around half of all pedestrian accidents happen on the more major urban roads, with Teenagers, people in their early 20s and people over 65 being particularly prone.

It is likely that children are not involved because they are not allowed near such roads, while the more middle-aged probably choose to drive rather than to walk.

There are a lot more pedestrians taking their chance in towns or cities, especially near shops or schools. Pedestrians have a tendency to run between slow moving vehicles, especially children and young adults so be aware and be ready to stop. Also look out for large groups of pupils crossing roads near secondary schools in the morning, lunchtime and when they finish school.

Bus Lanes

Where there are bus lanes, always read the signs at the start of the lane for the operation times. Not all bus lanes are 24 hrs. Some are for just for peak times, others are all day from 7.00am until 7.00pm. Often drivers just avoid them all the time, but there are often times you can use them. Sometimes you might be the only person in the lane. Buses, taxis or even cyclists may be travelling faster on your left-hand side. Make full use of your mirrors before turning left across a bus lane.

Traffic Lights

Remember there are far more traffic lights in the City. You need to be far more aware and use your peripheral vision continuously. The lights are sometimes higher and strung along the top of the carriageway.

The Age Of A Residential Area

The age of an area counts for a great deal when it comes to safety. If you look at style of housing, the safest road can be four times as safe as the least safe.

The age of a housing development plays a key role, as does the type of development. One of the great challenges in road safety is that deprived areas have the worst accident risk, yet often are least likely to campaign for road improvements, speed limits or traffic calming.

Older Areas

Older housing and street design poses the real problem. Between-the-wars and immediate post war council housing areas are some of the most dangerous in Britain for pedestrians. These often combine the problems of relative deprivation and road design that’s not suited to high rates of car use.

Car ownership by residents was not anticipated by the designers, so houses didn’t have garages or drives. Roads were built straight and wide, often with verges, leaving us today with roads that invite drivers to go fast, yet are often lined with parked cars, many on the verges or in parking areas built where the verges were.

Pedestrians crossing between parked cars cannot see oncoming cars, and drivers can’t see them.

Private Housing Areas are Safer. Older areas of private housing are safer than council housing of the same era, though not as safe as more modern areas. These houses usually have garages, long drives or parking spaces to take all their cars so fewer cars have to be parked on the road.

Also, the roads are through-routes, and may be straight and wide with good vision for the driver.

Newer Is Safer

Not surprisingly the safest roads are on modern estates and where generally cul-de-sacs branch off a distributor road. The fact that the cul-de-sacs are short, often have bends and are only used by those that live in them mean that traffic speeds are slow. Drivers also feel a responsibility to their neighbours.

Making Areas Safer

Early attempts at cutting accidents on urban roads often involved closing roads to stop through traffic and to slow down that which remained by making it take a more circuitous route.

In more recent years traffic calming and innovative ways of making people drive slower have been brought into areas with bad pedestrian accident records.

Now many councils are introducing 20 mph limits and many of these are on the residential streets that fall into the more dangerous categories.

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