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Avoiding accidents in urban areas

Urban or city driving can be quite stressful at the best of times. Unlike driving on open roads, there can be a lot of road markings, signage and potential hazards to look out for and all this needs to be assimilated very quickly in order to get through what are often complex road systems.

These kinds of busy, congested environments can bring out the worst in people, sometimes leading to impatient and aggressive behaviour which is often reflected in the way they drive their vehicles. Such behaviour can lead to a loss of focus on the job in hand i.e. driving safely, and the kind of risk taking that can lead to accidents.

Pedestrians and children

The key reason for having 30mph and sometimes 20mph speed limits, in busy urban areas is because of the danger of fatal injury to pedestrians.

Based on accident statistics gathered over the last 10 years, it is estimated that the risk of fatal injury to a pedestrian who has been hit by a vehicle rises from just 7% for a speed of 30mph to 31% for a speed of 40mph. We are now even seeing restrictions of 20mph appearing in some busy urban areas or near schools because the fatality risk falls to only 1% at this speed.

Children in particular are much more likely to be at risk in residential areas and near schools. Children are often oblivious of the dangers of playing near busy traffic and can frequently be seen wandering across busy roads whilst texting or listening to music without paying much attention to what's around them.

Drivers need to take extra care in these areas and especially near parked cars where a child could easily run out into the road from between them. Even though the speed limit may well be 30mph in such areas, it is a good idea to stay well below it in such areas as it not only reduces the chances causing a fatal injury, it also gives you more time spot a hazard and take action to avoid an accident.

In busy cities or town centres you should always watch out for pedestrians stepping into the road. Sometimes the pavements will be so crowded (especially at Christmas) that people will occasionally step off the pavement, always try to keep a safe distance away from the pavement.

Cyclists, motorbikes and scooters

In these health conscious and financially taxing times, many people now choose to use 2 wheeled forms of transport to get around our towns and cities. These types of transport not only offer health or cost savings to their users, but they also have the advantage of being able to slip passed traffic queues.

This is fine provided that it is done with care. However it does also mean that car drivers have to be particularly conscientious when manoeuvring to look out for cyclists or motorbike riders trying to take advantage of this.

Hundreds of accidents every year involve cyclists and motorbikes in similar situations to the above, and we must all try to watch out for them.

Buses and coaches

Towns and cities can be busy places and that's why they have regular public transport systems operating large buses to get people around. These along with coaches and school buses mean that drivers will frequently come across them when driving in urban areas.

Because buses and coaches tend be quite slow and they often have to make frequent stops, they can be quite infuriating if you are in a hurry. The only way to handle this is to be patient. Buses often have lay by's to pull into when they stop, so you will just have to wait until they pull into one.

There is however of course one other option and that is overtaking. This can be dangerous for two reasons, firstly the opposite carriageway will have to be clear for quite some distance before it would be safe to get past such a long vehicle safely without risking an accident.

Secondly when a bus stops there will often be people getting off and possibly attempting to cross the road in front of it. Children in particular are less likely to take care when doing this, and so if you intend to overtake a bus then it MUST be done with extreme caution.

Many large towns or cities will have clearly marked bus lanes which are usually for their exclusive use. There may be times when regular traffic can also use a bus lane and these times will be shown on signs at the side of the road. In some cities such as London for example, the bus lanes (which are marked in red) can also be used by taxis and two wheeled transport such as bicycles or motorbikes to help reduce congestion.

If any vehicle uses these lanes when they are not permitted to they can receive a Fixed Penalty Notice if they are caught on camera. These fines are usually between £60 and £70 but can be as much as £120 in cities such as London.

General advice

Driving in built-up areas need not be a problem as long as you keep your speed down and be patient with the traffic. Driving defensively and using your mirrors will often help you spot potential problems long before they become a major issue.

Regular drivers in urban areas can sometimes develop an 'aggressive' driving style which is something you should be prepared for. Just remember that it is always best to take your time, look ahead and not make rash judgments when driving in busy urban traffic. It's better to be slightly late for something than be involved in an accident.

If you have had a car accident that was not your fault, please give us a call us on 02392 484 244 or start your free claim enquiry online using the button below, and one of our experienced claims advisors will be happy to assist you.
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