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Rule of the road: always look before you cross

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From an early age I was taught to ‘look before you cross.’ Traffic will usually come from the right hand side when you start to cross a road. So to cross the road safely I was told to check your right hand side is clear of traffic first, and then when it is clear, check the left is clear of traffic. Then I always remember being told to check your right hand side again.

Every day five people are injured in the UK when crossing roads.

A recent case had shown a gentleman who suffered serious and permanent head and brain injuries when he stepped into the road near Liverpool Street station in London and was hit by a double decker bus on the 1st June 2009.

He was unable to give evidence at Court as his injuries were such that he had no recollection of the events in question. The case advanced to the effect that the bus driver ought to have seen Mr Walford at the roadside and sounded his horn to warn him not to step into the road. It was suggested that the warning was necessary because Mr Walford was looking to his left, whilst the bus was approaching from his right.

The judge rejected the submission that the bus driver should have appreciated that Mr Walford was looking the wrong way before crossing the road. He held that the driver could reasonably have expected the pedestrian to have looked to his right before starting to cross. The judge accepted Mr Piper’s submission, on behalf of the defence, that it would set an unrealistic standard to expect the driver to have sounded his horn when he saw a pedestrian on the kerbside looking the opposite direction (as he ought to have done on this occasion).

The judge accepted that the horn should have been sounded once the pedestrian stepped into the road, but accepted the agreed expert evidence to the effect that it would have been too late by then, as there would have been insufficient time for Mr Walford to respond to the horn and step back onto the pavement.

He was in the road for only 0.8 seconds prior to the collision and perception/reaction time of the driver is likely to be between 0.75 and 1.75 seconds. The judge held that the mere presence of the pedestrian at the side of the road did not amount to a danger, and it was only when he stepped out that he represented a hazard to the bus driver, albeit the driver was at fault in failing to notice the pedestrian on the nearside pavement.

The failure of Mr Walford to look to his right before stepping into the road was a tragic misjudgement, for which he was solely responsible. The claim was dismissed with costs to the defendant.

By personal injury team member, Tara Lever