On the Right Side of the Road

There’s an article about the safety of rural roads in the latest Advanced Driving magazine.

Of course, it’s mainly about driving, as you might guess from the title of the magazine, but there’s a little bit about walking on roads without pavement too. According to the statistics, 11% of all pedestrians killed or seriously injured (KSI) on rural roads had been walking with their back to oncoming traffic – that is, walking on the left: 6% had been walking facing traffic. Based on this evidence, the magazine claim that walking on the right is obviously safer.

Our resident statistician Elly could probably find more, but I’ve spotted two things immediately wrong with these statistics: you’ll all have noticed that more than four-fifths of the subject group haven’t been counted. There may be a good reason for this, but it still makes the numbers suspicious. Less obvious is that with the numbers as given there’s no control. We don’t know what proportion of pedestrians who weren’t in accidents were walking on either side, so the numbers as they stand are meaningless.

Elly – any further comments welcomed!

I’ve long had my own theory about walking on country roads, based on years of experience first as a road runner, and more recently as a countryside walker. Sticking strictly to one side or the other is all right on a straight stretch of road with good visibility, but where the road has bends and visibility is obscured, the safe option is normally to walk on the outside of the bend: Imagine walking through a right-hand bend with high hedges on both sides of the road: if you walk on the right, not only can you not be seen by oncoming cars – and you can’t see them – but you can’t be seen that well by traffic coming from behind either. Cross to the left hand side and you can see further through the bend: You’ll see, and be seen by, oncoming traffic that much sooner, and as you get past the crown of the bend you’ll be seen much sooner by traffic coming from behind.

Of course nothing’s perfect, and on a very twisty road you’ve got to balance the improved safety of better visibility, with the extra risk of constantly crossing and recrossing the road. But most other things being equal, I’ll be sticking to the outside.

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