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Traffic safety

Pondering the peanutabout…..

5 Jan, 17 | by Bridie Scott-Parker

I read the StreetsBlogUSA post Study: Diagonal Intersections are Especially Dangerous for Cyclists today with great interest, for a number of reasons that I thought I would share with you.

Firstly, there is no doubt that cyclists are a vulnerable road user group, and that particular segments of road are more problematic for cyclists. The research cited in the post pertains to an Injury Prevention publication which examined, in-depth, police reports of 300 car-cyclist crashes in the New York city area , and the police templates to record crash-pertinent information across the US. Innovative research which approaches a known problem from novel perspectives helps to provide additional pieces for the jigsaw puzzle that we seek to solve, and this research was an intriguing read indeed.

Secondly, the research revealed that some road configurations appeared to increase crash risk (i.e., we want to reconfigure these roads), and that the safest option in the most problematic circumstances was to separate the motor vehicle from the vulnerable cyclist. The ‘solution’ for cyclist safety can be a highly contentious issue, particularly here in Australia in which the motor vehicle has traditionally – through necessity – dominated our vast landscape, and as health and other benefits become apparent, cycling is gaining traction. Indeed, Cadel Evans, arguably Australia’s most celebrated cyclist, has tried to bring clarity to this divisive issue; stating that

I don’t think we should separate the two, because most people who ride a bike also have a car. In the end, they’re public roads for everyone. It’s a privilege to use roads; not a right.

 We have to respect everyone who’s using them, whether they’re driving a car, bus, tractor or truck, or riding a bike or are a pedestrian. We have to respect each other’s privilege and safety.”

in response to the question “What do you say to drivers who think cyclists don’t belong on the road?

Thirdly, the innovative solution of the peanutabout helps speak to ideas beyond the cyclist themselves – this is consistent with systems thinking which argues that safety (in this case, cyclist safety) emerges from a complex web of actions and interactions among a breadth of stakeholders who play a role in the larger safety system (e.g., in the case of my own research interests, an application of systems thinking in the young driver road safety). Given we are more than half way through the Decade of Action for Road Safety, and in the case of Australia, our road toll returned to an upward trajectory in 2016 after many years of a downward trajectory, such innovative thinking is critical.

Fourthly, the researchers noted that the templates used by police to record crash-pertinent information did not provide adequate details regarding the crash circumstances. Unfortunately this is not an uncommon problem, and again one that I have come across in my own research endeavours. If we are to effectively prevent injury, we need as much contextual and other information regarding the incident contributing to the injury.

Fifthly, while the peanutabout appears to be an ideal solution to the critical issues identified for the area noted, I am mindful that drivers do not always ‘cope well’ with complex infrastructure such as roundabouts. As a researcher within the realm of young driver road safety, and the mother of teen with the learner licence which requires full supervision whenever she is behind the wheel, Learner drivers often tell me that they ‘freak out’ when they come to a roundabout, and it is not actually round! According to Learners, roundabouts must be round, while oval roundabouts and others shaped as a parallelogram should be called something different. Hmmmm, on reflection, maybe Learners will be okay with a ‘peanutabout’…..

Finally, I paused to reflect on the safety implications for motorcyclists – another vulnerable road user group. While traversing a roundabout on his Harley Davidson last year, a colleague was driven over by a driver behind the wheel of 4WD, texting, who reported that she had checked the roundabout for vehicles before entering, and that she did not see – or hear – my colleague already on the roundabout (and thus he had right of way) until her front right tyre was on top of his leg and his motorbike. Thankfully he has managed to retain his leg, however he has had multiple operations, requires additional surgery, and will be scarred for life and never walk without support again. My colleague is the first to acknowledge that motorcyclists sometimes deliberately place themselves in danger through their riding behaviours – himself included – however we both eagerly await any intervention that will increase motorcycle safety when traversing complex infrastructure such as roundabouts.

Fatality Free Friday | Road Safety | Australia

27 May, 16 | by Sheree Bekker

Fatality Free Friday is an initiative that started in Australia in 2007, and the campaign has continued to expand its operation and is now recognised as Australia’s only national community based road safety program.

Road safety is a complex issue but we believe that if drivers consciously think about road safety and safe driving for just one Friday in the year, that day’s toll – statistically about 5.3* deaths – could be reduced to zero.

That’s our aim. Not a single road death in Australia for just one day. Just one Fatality Free Friday.

We believe that if drivers are asked to actively concentrate on road safety and safe driving for just one day in the year, they’ll drive safer for the next few days too and, over time, change their outlook completely, consciously thinking about safety each and every day they get behind the wheel.

*DataSource: Australian Transport Safety Bureau

(From Fatality Free Friday)

Drivers can take the pledge to drive safely here.

On advocacy: championing young driver safety

2 May, 16 | by Sheree Bekker

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[SB] In this post, public health consultant Dr Sarah J Jones (follow her on Twitter @GDLSarahJones), an advocate for better safety for young drivers and all
who share the roads with them, shares her experiences on her efforts to advocate for Graduated Driver Licencing in the UK
. In her previous role, Sarah was an injury epidemiologist at Cardiff University, researching a range of injury prevention topics and completing a PhD on Child Pedestrian Injuries and Deprivation, a study that included analysis of the links between traffic calming distribution, deprivation and narrowing inequalities. 

[SJJ] It all began in 2008. I was in the final stages of Public Health Registrar Training when my supervisor told me to “go somewhere and do something”. My interests in road traffic crash prevention lead me first to Dot Begg at Otago, Dunedin and then on to Erin Cassell at Monash, Melbourne. The main objective, as well as a fascinating insight into how pandemic flu and other public health issues were being dealt with (I travelled the week after the 2009 swine flu pandemic first emerged), was an estimate of the effect that Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) could have if implemented in the UK.

Back home, I presented what I had done, sat back, exceptionally pleased with myself, after all the case was now made, and awaited the “pat on the back” from my supervisor. “Nice” he said. “Now get it implemented”. “How” I lamely asked. “I don’t know. Work it out” was the response.

I’m still trying to work it out. Seven years on I have talked to a lot of people. I’ve given presentations to vaguely interested lay people in village halls, as well as to Members of Parliament. I have written articles for newspapers, magazines and peer reviewed journals. I have given newspaper, television and radio interviews, some live, and have participated in “phone-ins”.

Yet, we still do not have GDL in the UK. So, in seven years, I have achieved nothing.

I think people are more generally aware of GDL than when I started talking, but that may be completely unrelated to anything I have done. I am still looking for the guide on “How to bring about legislative change”, but there does not seem to be one. I have learned a lot about the policy process in the UK and about how reluctant people are to change their viewpoint, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

I always knew that the pace of Public Health change was painfully slow, but even with that knowledge continuing to advocate for change is difficult and often demoralising. It’s little wonder that we have become locked into a cycle of quick fixes (action that is just a proxy for effective action) to match political cycles that can then be quietly sidelined when they do not have the effect that was intended.

After 8 years in research / academia, my move into service based public health was my “translational research”. I am coming to believe that advocacy is the most important, but most overlooked area of both public health and injury prevention, partly because it is so difficult to measure the effect of what is being done. How we support people to become effective advocates is likely to be key to effective intervention prevention in the future.

[SB] I too have written on the vital importance of advocacy: here and here. As researchers, it is important to remember that we do not always need to disseminate purely our most up-to-date research results, or even the most innovative interventions; sometimes our work life’s work is bigger than that. Sometimes we need to advocate for the very heart that lies at our work: simple, credible information and resources that can make a difference in even one person’s life.

Botswana reflections: on learning the ABCs

15 Oct, 15 | by Sheree Bekker

I am currently in Botswana: a landlocked southern-African country of roughly two million people. I grew up here, and it is a place that I consider one of the most beautiful in the world (particularly the Okavango Delta – a bucket list destination for wildlife). The country and its people were beautifully portrayed in this music video from Nico and Vinz (take note Taylor Swift).

Although Botswana is amongst the most economically and politically stable countries in Africa, the need for public health improvements (as with other countries) remains a priority.

The top ten causes of death in Botswana, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010) are:

  1. HIV
  2. Cancer
  3. Stroke
  4. Tuberculosis
  5. Ischemic Heart Disease
  6. Diarrheal Disease
  7. Diabetes
  8. Road Injuries
  9. Lower Respiratory Infections
  10. Malaria

It is no surprise that HIV remains at number one on this list, in 2014 the prevalence of HIV in adults aged 15 to 49 was 25.2% – second in the world only to Swaziland.

The ubiquitous presence of the HIV epidemic can still be seen in the faded remains of the educational messaging that was painted on every available public wall in the 1990s and early 2000s.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Indeed, I so clearly remember that we learned our ABCs at school in Botswana, the letters themselves certainly, but almost more importantly the potentially life-saving versions too: A) Abstain, B) Be wise, C) Condomise. To this day, condoms are widely and freely available (useful, except when the HIV awareness ribbons are stapled to – through – the condoms themselves).

Botswana has generated what is often referred to as a ‘stunning achievement‘ in its multi-faceted response to the HIV epidemic. This success means that the government can now allocate resources to start to address other public health concerns.

Number eight on the above list, road injuries, is now seeing an uptick in prevention initiatives. A 2012 abstract published in Injury PreventionCharacteristics of casualty crashes in the Republic of Botswana: identifying evidence-based prevention opportunities showed that:

Fatality rates increased by 383% (per 10 000 vehicles) from 1975–1998, with recent estimates indicating a 50% higher fatality rate per population than the global average.

The Global Burden of Disease 2010 Study showed that alcohol use was the leading risk factor for disease burden in Botswana. A 30% tax on alcohol (reduced from the initial plan for a 70% tax) was subsequently introduced. A second 2012 abstract in Injury PreventionComparing fatal alcohol-related road traffic crashes in Botswana pre- and post-passage of a national alcohol levy showed:

A large percentage of fatal alcohol-related crashes (FARCs) occurred on weekends (49%), among males (78%), and among 25–34 year-olds (35%).

Comparing changes pre- and post-levy, we found that there was a statistically significant change in FARCs per 10 000 registered vehicles (rate pre-levy=10.4; 95% CI 9.1 to 11.8 vs rate post-levy=8.3; 95% CI 7.3 to 9.3; p=0.01). However, rates per 100 000 population remained stable pre- and post-levy (rate pre-levy: 6.9; 95% CI 6.0 to 7.7 vs rate post-levy: 7.5; 95% CI 6.6 to 8.4; p=0.29).

Alcohol is, obviously, only one element of the highly complex issue that is road safety in Botswana. Road safety issues that I notice here daily include: lack of seatbelt use, unrestrained children, unroadworthy vehicles, animals on roads, speeding, negligent driving, potholes, and overcrowded vehicles. It is encouraging to see work being done on the ground to improve safety (police spot licence checks for example), however it will take time and a multifaceted, focused, local strategy similar to that seen in the HIV response for any great strides to be made. Encouragingly, we know that research and policy have had positive impacts in similar countries around the world. Interestingly, Botswana’s current road safety initiatives do not seem to be as creative as the robots in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Whilst there is much to achieve in Botswana on the issue of road safety, the success of the HIV campaign means that Botswana can be proud of its initiatives to prevent injury to and illness in its citizens and visitors alike.

 

*Please note that I am not a researcher in the area of HIV or road safety, and this blog is largely based on my personal observations and knowledge. I welcome comments and insights from people who are – either below, or on our Twitter or Facebook.

“Drive Your Bike, Don’t Just Ride It”

21 Aug, 15 | by Angy El-Khatib

Last week, I wrote a short blog highlighting a publication in this month’s issue of Injury Prevention which stressed the need to gather “better” data as a step towards improving future bicycle safety endeavors.

This week, I am absolutely delighted to introduce a guest blog by someone who is equally passionate and enthusiastic about data as he is about bicycle safety – my mentor and inspiration, Dr. Christiaan Abildso (follow him on Twitter at @walkbikemgw)! He is an assistant professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at WVU School of Public Health. His main areas of research include health promotion program evaluation and the social ecological determinants of physical activity, including policy and the built environment. Recently, he presented “The Burden of Pedestrian- and Cyclist-Motor Vehicle Crashes (PCMCVs) and Costs in West Virginia: 2000-06” as a part of the 2014 WVU Injury Control Research Center’s webinar series (you can watch it here).

Christiaan rode his bike to the 2015 MPH and PhD graduation ceremony while wearing his academic dress.

Christiaan rode his bike to the 2015 WVU MPH and PhD graduation ceremony while wearing his academic garb.

Christiaan has two very notorious and very utlized catchphrases; the first is “I love data!” and the second is “Change the world!” which he very well does by engaging in the community. He served as the Chairperson for the Morgantown Pedestrian Safety Board from 2008 to 2014, has been an Ex-officio Member of the Morgantown Municipal Bicycle Board since 2012, and is a current member of both the West Virginia Connecting Communities and the Morgantown Traffic Commission.

Since this month’s blogging topic was to be focused on bike safety, I asked Christiaan to write a guest blog about his own experience as he transitioned from a novice cyclist to a trained traffic rider.


 

“Drive Your Bike, Don’t Just Ride It”
By guest blogger: Christiaan Abildso

My first taste of freedom was experienced on a teal-green Peugeot in the mid-1980s in suburban Washington DC. With each passing summer and my super cool 5-speed, I was given more and more leeway by my parents to “ride to John’s house,” then to Tom’s house, then to the community pool and parks. As a young lad in pre-helmet days I had a great time riding on and off sidewalks, and on wide streets mostly of 25 mph speed limit. It was suburban America in a Levitt town in the summer. I was safe.

As I grew up I rode less or not at all until I got back into bicycle commuting about 6 years ago when I became a father, gas prices were high, and I didn’t have time to go to a gym. I began to experience that freedom yet again. However, I was now riding in a more urban environment with more traffic, narrower lanes, no bike lanes or separate infrastructure, and less kindness toward me as a cyclist – let’s face it, kids on bikes get more leeway to mess up than mid-thirties cyclists! One day, I moved from the end of 5 cars at a red light in the left lane in a three lane, one-way downtown road to the middle lane to be at the front of the traffic. I did this to jump the traffic and move back over in front of the left lane traffic to make a turn. As I jumped back to the left lane, a kind gentleman driving by leaned his Livestrong band covered left wrist and wagged a finger at me, saying “you should know better. You’re gonna get killed.”

This statement made me think, what did I do wrong? That moment began my evolution from thinking like a “bike rider” to thinking like a “bike driver.” I began seeking the opinion of Frank Gmeindl – a League of American Bicyclists certified League Cycling Instructor (LCI) in Morgantown, WV, and uber-experienced rider with tens of thousands of miles of experience. He offered to ride behind me one day giving only these instructions (as I recall them): 1) ride like a vehicle, 2) be predictable, 3) be seen, and 4) take the lane. Following the ride – during which, in retrospect, I did a bunch of things that put me in harm’s way (like riding as far to the edge of the road as possible) – Frank patiently offered these same four suggestions, then took the lead. His few suggestions have, without a doubt, saved my life.

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Christiaan playing the “hipster” and picking up his Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) on his bike.

I continued to seek out information, eventually taking the Safer City Cycling class offered by Frank and another local LCI. I have ridden thousands of miles over the past few years with the advice of Frank and others in my head. I now am confident enough in my abilities to ride in almost any condition on nearly any road without fear. Over the years I have evolved to be very calm in traffic and now help others when I see them riding in a way that puts them (or me as “one of those pesky bikers”) at risk of injury. I honed in on one statement I heard or read a few years back that summarizes how to operate a bicycle: “Drive your bike, don’t just ride it.” That neatly summarizes Frank’s four key lessons, and I often use that with others when they say I’m crazy for riding all the time and on almost any road. I also make an offer to them, as Frank did, to go for a ride to help.

To my fellow cyclists, when in traffic. Remember, we are traffic. We are adults. Vehicle drivers don’t want to hit us.

My advice when in traffic: Be seen. Be predictable. Take the lane. Drive your bike like you would a car…and, give a hand of thanks when a vehicle driver treats you well. It will make driving a bike safer for all of us.

 

 

Follow Dr. Christiaan Abildso at @walkbikemgw!

Children in virtual traffic testing situations – can we approximate real traffic situations?

20 Aug, 15 | by Klara Johansson

Young children are developmentally very bad at traffic safety. This was early demonstrated by Swedish researcher Stina Sandels in the 1960’s. In her groundbreaking studies where she studied children’s behaviour in traffic situations, she came to the conclusion that children under the age of 12 are developmentally unable to handle traffic in a safe way. She stated that ‘even the best road safety education cannot adapt a child to modern traffic, so that traffic has got to be adapted to the child.’

Since then, research has repeatedly shown this to be true. For instance, children before the age of eleven are usually not able to think from another perspective, and thus often fail to understand that a curve, hill or parked car may obstruct their view.

But in order to adapt traffic to children, we still need to study the choices children make in various traffic situations. And nowadays, when we’re aware of the high injury risk, we need to do such studies “in vitro”, in perfectly safe conditions.

How can we do that?

Well, nowadays there are technical options never before seen. An article in our current issue of Injury Prevention is using and further developing virtual reality to study if children crossing a street adjust their walking speed to avoid oncoming traffic. The technology is obviously still at an early stage, but Morrongiello, Corbett, Milanovic, Pyne & Vierich is building on previous research but with the improvement that they use a system that allows children to physically walk across a street in a virtual environment (while actually walking in an empty room, supervised by researchers).

The virtual environment used in the study (picture courtesy of Barbara A Morrongiello)

The virtual environment used in the study (picture courtesy of Barbara A Morrongiello)

The study shows that children’s average walking speed is a bad proxy for how fast they walk under the threat of oncoming traffic. This finding emphasizes the importance of using a VR testing environment where children can actually move around themselves instead of controlling an avatar that corresponds to their average normal walking speed, which has been used in previous studies.

Incidentally, I just read a long feature in Time about how far virtual reality has developed. The full article is unfortunately only available to subscribers, but there is a brief version here. To give a very short summary: virtual reality tec has come further than we think, but many headsets and graphics on the market are still fairly clunky (but new tec is set to reach the market within 18 months). The article also points out that VR can be useful for a wide range of purposes, including conference meetings, treatment of phobias, empathy training, and research. They don’t mention traffic safety research, but that just goes to show that each of us nerds in the world have our own specific interest to bring to the table.

One major differentiating feature of VR systems seems to be whether one would explore the virtual worlds by walking around or sitting on the couch. Well, for traffic safety research, the article by Morrongiello et al shows the value of one that lets the subject walk around.

Or cycle around – that seems easier to accomplish, using a training bike that responds to the virtual environment. For adults, studies using car driving simulators has been available for more than 20 years, but of course, that doesn’t require a VR headset.

The next technological step that VR geeks dream of is apparently “enhanced reality” – a headset that superimposes virtual holograms onto your real field of vision. From what I understand, this is more difficult technologically, but if accomplished, I imagine it could be a gold mine for safety research and training.

 

Latest from Injury Prevention

Latest from Injury Prevention