Road use and the vision-impaired pedestrian

I was shocked to read in a recent media release by the Guide Dogs of Australia that half their vision impaired and blind clients had a near miss with a vehicle whilst they tried to cross the road at some time in the past five years, with 1 in 15 clients reporting they had actually been struck by the vehicle! Pedestrians are widely-recognised as a vulnerable road-user group, however I would suggest that surely vision-impaired pedestrians are particularly vulnerable and as such extra vigilance to the road and pedestrians is required by cyclists, motorcyclists and drivers alike.

October 15 was International White Cane Day, and Guide Dogs New South Wales/Australian Capital Territory (NSW/ACT) in conjunction with the NSW Government, NRMA, the NSW Police Force and the Centre for Road Safety at Transport NSW are trying to raise driver awareness of pedestrian safety in a new campaign “Watch out, cane about”. Readers can visit  http://www.guidedogs.com.au/news-and-events/events/15-10-2013/watch-out-cane-about to see the media campaign and see and hear vision impaired persons talk about negotiating their life – including the road – with a cane.

Dr Graeme White, CEO of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, said “Interestingly, clients reported most incidents occur with cars not stopping or giving way at marked pedestrian crossings. Other common incidents experienced when crossing roads were drivers flashing lights, honking horns, shouting instructions and even getting out of the car to physically assist.”

“The best ways to help are to abide by the road rules, while exercising extra caution and allowing more time. You should never assume a pedestrian has full vision to assist in their decision making and will stop if you decide not to.”

I encourage all blog readers to familiarise themselves with the campaign and to share this information with their wider network, improving road safety not only for vision-impaired pedestrians but indeed for all pedestrians.

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