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Abley Apr 20244 min read

Road safety: Making the case for raised safety platforms

Safe Systems - Safe RoadsIt’s 9.55am on Saturday and you are running late driving your daughter to soccer. You look down at the speedometer and notice you are doing 60km/h as you whip past the school on the way to the sports ground. Or it’s 8.20am on a Thursday morning and you are hurrying to work in your car. The traffic isn’t moving so you take the next right and run through the back streets to save time. Your speed creeps up to 65km/h but you know you won’t get caught — there aren’t any Police officers or speed cameras around.

We’ve all been in these situations, haven’t we? We might not want to admit it, but how many times in the last week did you notice your speed creeping above the speed limit. But it doesn’t hurt anyone does it? You are a good driver, and everyone is perfectly safe…

In 2021 there were 25 fatal crashes, 241 serious injury crashes and 603 minor injury crashes involving pedestrians.

The simple fact is everyone is not perfectly safe, not by a long shot. Nobody leaves home in the morning planning to be involved in a crash. No one believes we should accept death or serious injury as cost of travelling to school, work, or play, so what can we do about it?

When a crash occurs, the biggest factor of whether someone is killed or seriously injured is the speed of impact. A pedestrian hit at 30km/h has a 90% chance of survival while at 50km/h this reduces to less than 20%[i].

If we know we make mistakes when we are driving, and speeding is a common mistake, we need to be smarter in how we design our roads to reduce speed so if a crash does occur, it doesn’t kill or maim us.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and local authorities around Aotearoa New Zealand are trying to do something about it. Alongside introducing more appropriate speed limits, they are looking at a range of improvements to roads and roadsides to keep us safe. One of the new approaches being rolled out are raised safety platforms to reduce speeds through intersections and crossings. These have also been used to good effect in Europe, North America, and Australia.

Expecting drivers, pedestrians, and other road users to obey signage and markings around crossings is insufficient to keep everyone safe.  Sadly, many people make mistakes when driving or crossing the road — drivers and pedestrians aren’t perfect and can be distracted, inattentive or impaired. Crossings can also be harder to detect at night or if it’s raining.

In the past five years, over 500 people were reported as injured while crossing the road on or near a marked pedestrian crossing[ii], with an average of two people dying each year. The most at-risk groups are the young and the old, with children aged 10-14 years suffering the highest number of injuries of any five-year age band. Almost a third of all deaths and serious injuries involved pedestrians and mobility scooter users aged 65 years and older. We also know that total injuries are likely to be much higher than this, as crashes and injuries involving pedestrians are notoriously under-reported[iii].

By introducing raised platforms, either at a crossing or an intersection, drivers are required to slow down to cross them. Depending on the location, the approach ramp can be designed to achieve different speed reductions.

raised platform
Raised zebra crossing - Opawa Rd, Christchurch

So next time you see your local authority proposing a raised safety platform, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you agree that the roads should be safe for all users?
  • Do you agree that if someone does get hit, their severity of injury should be minimised?

If you agree with the above, please show your support for the proposals and provide your feedback.

If you disagree with the above, please consider why?

  • If you are concerned that you may be inconvenienced, ask yourself how you would feel if it was your child, partner or parent that got hit. Is saving a few seconds worth the risk?
  • If you are concerned about damaging your vehicle, you will be driving faster than what is safe and appropriate at that location – well-designed platforms are designed not to damage vehicles.

If you have other concerns, please feel free to get in touch and let’s discuss them.

This week is known as Road Safety Week, but in reality, every week should be Road Safety Week. Please consider what else you can do to keep your family, friends and neighbours safe on the roads every day you are out on the roads.

References:

[i] Statistics and image sourced from https://www.transport.govt.nz/statistics-and-insights/safety-annual-statistics/sheet/pedestrians

[ii] Based on Waka Kotahi CAS data for crashes between 2018-2022 resulting in injuries to road user types “pedestrian”, “wheeled pedestrian (wheelchairs, mobility scooters)” or “skateboard, in-line skate”, where either the road marking was recorded as “pedestrian xing” or the traffic control was recorded as “isolated pedestrian signal (non-intersection)” or “school patrol/warden”.

[iii] Actual pedestrian injuries are estimated to be 8.3 times higher than those reported in the Waka Kotahi Crash Analysis System, according to a report by Auckland Transport in 2022, see https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/local-government/300842926/cyclist-injuries-estimated-to-be-7-times-higher-than-official-figures