Every time we get behind the wheel of a car we are about to embark on a journey, not just the one that takes us from A to B, just a journey where our fate may well lie in the hands of others, and the differing dynamics of the road environment.
Every journey is different and that is why we must take the same precautions every single time. Complacency can lead to a heightened risk and travelling over the same route day in, day out, can lull us into a false sense of security.
Here, we are going to look at some of those hazards we might meet when we are out for a regular drive, and what we can do to reduce the risk in the event of coming across them.
When approaching a pedestrian crossing we must look to both sides to see if there is anybody waiting to cross. We must slow down on approach and stop to give way and allow them to cross. We must also be conscious of anything that might be blocking our clear view of the crossing, and the pedestrian´s view of the road, such as parked cars, adjusting our speed appropriately. Remember, if the pavement or road is wet or icy, we need more time to slow down.
Children and Young People
It is important to pay close attention to children and young road users as they may have no real awareness of the dangers of the road, and might cross without taking any precautions. Look out for tell-tale signs of being near areas where children might play, such as parks, gardens and even shops. Look out also for objects in the road or on the pavement such as bikes or balls, as these might take precedence in the mind of a child oblivious to the road dangers.
Many young people can also become hazards without realising, and countless documented accounts would testify to that. Look out for people wearing headphones, perhaps listening to music and less aware of their surroundings. Texting and using a mobile phone whilst walking also causes a distraction and might well lead to pedestrians unknowingly walking into the road. Allow extra space and slow down in areas where young people might be present.
Roads passing near schools may display a warning sign indicating the potential presence of children. In these areas, a heightened attention is vital, not only because of the risk of children in the road but in these areas it is increasingly common to see vehicles double-parked or illegally parked, as the risks associated with such a volatile area are increased significantly by drivers choosing to ignore the laws relating to parking, and putting children at an increased risk. It is important to be very careful because a child may appear unexpectedly. Maximum permitted speed limits are also likely to be reduced in these areas.
The Elderly and Disabled
Look out for older people near to the road. These senior citizens sometimes suffer mobility problems, might be helped by walking sticks, and could be unsteady on their feet. They may suffer hearing or vision impairments and their special awareness and alertness may not be as acute as others. The same applies to those with assisted mobility, such as wheelchair users. Although they are being helped to move, their manoeuvrability may be compromised. It is also important for drivers to exercise patience and allow more time for those who need it to cross the road safely.
We have covered the young and the old but we mustn´t forget those in between. Adults walking onto the road can also be a potential hazards. Crossing at inappropriate places, between parked cars or dustbins, crossing diagonally and rushing to go about their business can all mean that adults too can enter the road without warning.
Parents with pushchairs are another problem for road users, as a pushchair is manoeuvred onto the road whilst the adults wait at what they consider to be an appropriate place with good visibility, whilst the baby is pushed closer to the danger zone in doing so.
Traffic wardens, mobility agents, police, Guardia Civil and other state forces work tirelessly to ensure our safety. Therefore, it is not uncommon for them to be in the road directing traffic or performing a special control. It is mandatory to act on the instructions given by people controlling traffic.
Cyclists are one of the most vulnerable groups of road users. When you go to overtake, make sure you leave the minimum 1.5 metre gap between your vehicle and the cycle, look for signs and signals given by the rider, and look at the road ahead. Make sure you can safely overtake and return to your own lane in good time, and look for any potential hazards to the cyclist such as potholes or other obstacles which may cause the rider to deviate from the bike´s course.
Motorbikes are also a high risk and vulnerable group. Similar to bicycles, motorbikes may encounter obstacles on the road that cause them to lose balance. Plus, as motorbikes are likely to be travelling at a higher speed by pushbikes, the potential risk is much higher in the event of an impact as the rider´s body would absorb much of the physical shock.