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How driver awareness can reduce cyclist deaths

At a glance

  • Following a spate of cyclist deaths in London, Zurich looks at how driver safety procedures within motor fleets can be increased
  • HGVs are commonly cited as a danger to cyclists, but car drivers must also remain alert at all times, especially in heavy traffic
  • Companies must ensure that their fleet of drivers act as responsibly as possible on the roads

The number of cyclists on the UK’s roads has increased since the 2012 London Olympics, but a spate of recent cyclist deaths has brought into focus how drivers can reduce the chances of being involved in a collision.

In November, six cyclists in London were killed in a two-week period, which took the city’s death toll for bikers to 14. But what was also revealing was that HGVs were involved in nine of those fatal incidents.

According to data from the Department for Transport, there has been a steady increase in deaths and serious injuries for UK cyclists over the past four years from 2,771 to 3,340. All of this has led to questions about the need for greater driver awareness and cyclist safety.

“Over the past few years, the number of cyclists on the roads has exploded,” said Andy Price, Practice Leader, Motor Fleet, at Zurich. “As a result, drivers and managers of motor fleets need to ensure that everyone is as safe as possible on the road.”

Check the blind spot

HGVs have been particularly sighted as a danger to cyclists.

Safety tips for drivers 

  • Look out for cyclists, especially when turning left – make eye contact if possible so they know you’ve seen them
  • Use your indicators – signal your intentions so that cyclists can react
  • Give cyclists space – at least half a car’s width. If there isn’t sufficient space to pass, hold back. Remember that cyclists may need to manoeuvre suddenly if the road is poor, it’s windy or if a car door is opened
  • Do not use handheld devices while driving, such as mobile phones
  • Avoid driving over advanced stop lines – these allow cyclists to get to the front and increase their visibility
  • Follow the Highway Code including observing ‘stop’ and ‘give way’ signs and traffic lights

Safety tips for cyclists

  • Ride positively, decisively and well clear of the kerb
  • Avoid riding up the inside of large vehicles, like lorries or buses, where you might not be seen
  • Always use lights after dark or when visibility is poor
  • Wear light-coloured or reflective clothing during the day and reflective clothing and/or accessories in the dark
  • Follow the Highway Code including observing ‘stop’ and ‘give way’ signs and traffic lights
  • Wear a correctly fitted cycle helmet

Source: Department of Transport

For more information, visit cycleaid.co.uk

“Large vehicles turning left is the main issue, especially where the driver has not seen a cyclist on the nearside of his or her vehicle,” said Andy. “With large rigid vehicles it is easier for the driver to spot anything on their nearside, but with articulated lorries the design creates massive blind spots once the vehicle has started to turn.”

Caroline Marchbank-Caunce, a senior solicitor from Cycle Aid, concurred that it is large vehicles in city centres that are more frequently involved in such incidents. For motor fleet drivers, though, she warns of things to look out for in heavy commuter traffic.

“The most obvious things is when a driver is flashed by another driver to turn into a side road, and does so without checking the cycle lane,” she said. “That is how, in our experience, many accidents occur. So we’d say, always turn slowly and watch for the cycle lane.

“Roundabouts are another area where a lot of collisions occur, with motorists setting off and not noticing that a cyclist is already on the roundabout and accidently turning into them.”

Mirror, signal, watch out for cyclists, manoeuvre

While driver training and awareness is a crucial part of reducing road collisions, Nick Kitchen, Head of Casualty & Motor, Zurich, also stressed that there are basic checks companies need to undertake to ensure that their staff are as responsible as possible.

“It’s not just a training issue, but about raising awareness and covering the basics,” said Nick.

“Companies that have motor fleets need to ensure that they and their drivers are following fundamental driving safety procedures. This means making sure drivers are not tired and that they are not distracted while driving.

“A driver needs to be concentrating first and foremost on the road. By doing this, collisions can be reduced. However, it’s also about raising awareness, such as how some vehicles have blind spots, so that companies can invest in additional mirrors, training or even proximity alert systems.”

For people who cycle to and from work, police in London have also been promoting safety awareness for those who have not been taking basic precautions. Days after the recent crashes in London, more than 100 cyclists were stopped by police at Vauxhall Bridge Road over ‘concerns about their behaviour’, such as not wearing a helmet nor a high visibility jacket, wearing headphones and cutting corners.

It’s not just a training issue, but about raising awareness and covering the basics

Nick Kitchen, Head of Casualty & Motor

Driver implementation

Zurich offers risk management services for everything from management concerns to online risk assessment, but when it comes to road safety implementation it is all about making drivers aware of the risks and informing companies on how best to manage them.

One thing is clear. With cyclist traffic levels rising – by approximately 1.2% each year – and with the number of cyclists killed going from 107 in 2011 to 118 in 2012, it is clear that both drivers and cyclists need greater awareness of the risks.

Image © Getty

For more information, get in touch

Nick Kitchen | Head of Casualty and Motor | 0121 697 8629

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