Taking extra care around vulnerable road users
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When driving past schools and their surrounding areas, it’s even more important to maintain safe driving practices.
To help keep our kids safe, special school speed zones are in operation around many of our schools. These involve dropping the speed limit to 40km/h at the start and end of the school day.
Highly visible 40km/h signs make it easy to know that you’ve entered the zone.
Something that may take you by surprise though, is a rule that the speed limit can be applied for 10 minutes at any other time day or night when at least 50 children are crossing the road, or entering and leaving vehicles at the roadside. Appropriate signs mark the beginning and end of the area where the speed limit operates. If a school bus has pulled over to allow its passengers to disembark, remember that the speed limit isn’t 20km/h when passing in either direction.
Keep an eye out for school patrols operating at pedestrian crossings near schools and also Kea crossings, which are just like school patrols, except they are unmarked; and when the patrols are not operating, the road reverts to a normal roadway.
E-bikes, bike share and alternate transport modes, such as scooters, are also things motorists need to factor in, on and around our roads. Watch for cyclists
Cyclists are more vulnerable out on the road as they can be less visible and are not as protected as other road users.
They encounter hazards on a daily basis that require a fair amount of navigating. Parked or departing cars, potholes, glass, rubbish, wind and opening doors can all cause a cyclist to suddenly change their path.
The “Dutch reach” approach – in which you use your opposite hand to open the car door before exiting – naturally forces drivers (and passengers) to check the mirror and blind-spot for cyclists.
According to a report by the NZ Ministry of Transport, five cyclists died in 2018 and 774 were injured in police-reported crashes on New Zealand roads.
Of all cyclist/vehicle crashes where a cyclist was admitted to hospital, three-quarters of the incidents involved car drivers.
This is why the New Zealand Road code recommends drivers leave at least a 1.5m gap if they are passing a cyclist. If the road is narrow, it’s important to be patient and wait until it is safe to pass a cyclist.
At intersections, drivers should apply the same rules to cyclists as to any other vehicle on the road — indicators are a must to tell the cyclist where you are turning.
Of course, it’s a two-way street and cyclists are also expected to obey the road rules and behave predictably.
Unsettling, hesitant or erratic behaviour can result in motorists making impulse decisions as they typically have less time to react to prevent an accident.
Sudden manoeuvring can put other road users at risk, so it’s important that cyclists are alert — no earphones — and aware of traffic approaching from behind.
Use cycle lanes where they’re available and, if they’re not, clearly signal any turns and allow vehicles to pass safely, particularly in heavy traffic flows. And most of all, use lights and wear safety gear.
People in cars or on bikes both have a right to use our roads, and share a responsibility to understand and respect each other’s needs.
We want all road users to be safe. Give cyclists and other users space. It's not just a bike; it's a person on a bike with a family, friends and a life.