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If you get hit by a car, it’s probably your fault

If you are a pedestrian crossing the road and get hit by a car, it is apparently your fault. This morning the herald came up with this beauty:

Failure to pay attention to vehicles is the cause of most intersection accidents involving pedestrians.

Crossing the road is among the most dangerous of everyday activities – and police say even the slightest loss of concentration could have disastrous, if not fatal, results.

More than 700 pedestrians have been hit by cars at Auckland intersections over the past four years, and most victims were not paying attention to vehicles around them, distracted by cellphones or music players or succumbing to their own impatience.

The intersection of Albert and Victoria Streets is said to be the worst, and of course it is the pedestrian’s fault for either not paying attention or taking unnecessary risks. What I find frustrating is that there seems to be no thought given as to why pedestrians are so willing to step out in front of moving vehicles. Is it that while waiting for their turn to cross they hear the buzzer go off for a different leg of the intersection? Is the risk-taking due to ridiculously long vehicle phases? There also seems to be little questioning of the role that vehicles have to play – almost every time I go to the Albert/Victoria St intersection there are drivers who are running red or late yellow lights, or trying to drive through pedestrians that are crossing. My wife has had some close calls at this intersection due to careless drivers, whose only concerns are getting to the next set of lights a few seconds faster.

In other threads on this subject we tend to get a lot of debate from some engineers, saying that they design streets and intersections to follow ‘the standard’ and whose only consideration is about maximum throughput (of both cars and pedestrians). They go as far as saying that we should only look to increase pedestrian priority when we get more pedestrians, but what they often fail to realise is that we won’t get more pedestrians until the priority for them improves. It’s a kind of logic that gets us stuck going round in circles. What we need to do is look at what the best cities internationally do and learn from them, while at the same time recognising that the primary way to get around the city centre is by walking.

116 comments to If you get hit by a car, it’s probably your fault

  • Bryce P

    And of course the old ‘pedestrian was wearing headphones’. Whilst I think this habit is a bit silly, how many motorists are likewise deeply ensconced in their vehicles with the stereo turned up or, as I notice more frequently these days, similarly wearing headphones? Until someone proves otherwise, I firmly believe there are staff at AT who do not rate pedestrians (or cyclists for that matter). This needs to change.

    • obi

      I bicycled thousands of kilometers around Australia without incident. Then Apple invented the iPod and the result was some sort of minor accident every couple of months or so. Not with a vehicle since I was usually on a bike path but I managed to fall off my bike, crash in to other cyclists, and I hit a telephone pole once. The problem was mostly trying to find and select a song while moving. None of this stopped me cycling or listening to music while I cycled, but I was aware of the dangers and wouldn’t have blamed a vehicle if I had hit one.

    • By extension you might want to tell the freight train driver in Tauranga that when his freight train collided and killed a female wearing her iPod as she crossed the controlled level crossing while it had its lights and bells going, barrier arms down, signs say STOP AND LOOK FOR TRAINS and oh yes, the locomotive with hits high beams on blasting its horn before and during the impact.

      So Bryce who is at fault? The train driver or the pedestrian committing a stupid act?

      Once you answer that question then answer this:

      I am travelling down Queen Street from downtown heading towards Town Hall direction. The traffic is light but pedestrian flows are heavy. The nominal speed limit is 40km/h however due to heavy pedestrian flows in the vicinity I have dropped my speed to 30-35km/h. It is dry and around 2pm. I am at heightened alert because of the pedestrians however I still need to watch for other traffic and emergency services. I get to the Victoria Street intersection and want to go left to get to the parking building, I indicate my turn in advance, slip into the lane, check the green light which I have, check for the little red or green man which is red, drop my speed to a safe turning speed, check my top right corner from and for opposing traffic, my wheels have crossed the white line, begin to turn and BANG. I just hit a iPod wearing pedestrian crossing the road on the solid red man while I had the Green Arrow. All my precautions were taken including heightened alert and reduced speed but the accident still happened.

      So who’s fault is it Bryce?

      That Queen/Victoria Street has good decent enough phasings for pedestrian crossing so it is not like they are waiting excessively for their turn.

      Now as for Matt’s point here: “There also seems to be little questioning in the role of vehicles in this either, almost every single time I go to particularly Albert/Victoria St intersection there are drivers who are either running red or late yellow lights or doing things like driving through pedestrians who are crossing. I know my wife has nearly been hit a few times at this intersection by careless drivers who are only concerned with getting to the next set of lights a few seconds faster.” Yes that is condemnable to the cars for their illegal behaviour – that I agree too

      But I will not agree to it being my fault coming through an intersection legitimately in an example I have pointed above due to some idiot crossing on a solid red man at an intersection while wearing an iPod. The respect is mutual, I give way to you on your turns, you give way to me on my turns.

      As for our excessive waiting whether a car or pedestrian – I hate that a lot as it does impede flows to both parties (Commerce Street and Customs Street West Intersection) as Matt has again said here: “is the risk taking due to things like stupidly long vehicle phases.”

      So yes Matt – it can very well be a pedestrian’s fault in some situations – just as it can be the car’s fault in others. It goes both ways. To try and pin it on just one is negligent

      • Bryce P

        That wasn’t what I said Ben.

        Quote “Whilst I think this habit is a bit silly”.

        What I was referring to was that pedestrians are not the only ones who travel and can be distracted while listening to music or the like. Car drivers do this every day. How can the driver of a car, where the stereo is cranked up, be fully aware of their surroundings?

        • Okay – I’ll give you that in me misquoting. Then again I drive my car in absolute silence with no radio on and even tell my wife to err pipe down if I am at a traffic spot where I need “extra” caution or attention due to a situation on the road

          • Bryce P

            I suspect you’re in the minority Ben. Good to hear. If I screw up as a pedestrian or cyclist I hope you are the next vehicle along :-).

      • Steve D

        The speed limit is 30 on Queen St, not 40. I’m not sure from your comment, but if that was a real collision rather than a hypothetical one you might not want to admit you were speeding.

      • Bryce P

        Walking in front of a train is dumb but in your other example, yes the accident happened but because your speed was low the chance of death was reduced by a significant margin. That’s why I advocate for lower speed limits around many urban streets. People can make mistakes and live. If a car driver makes a mistake at 50 km/h (as evidenced by crash data, total accidents are not really any lower) their chances of death are very low as opposed to the pedestrian who is just about sure to die. If drivers can make a mistake and live then so too should pedestrians be able to in urban situations.

        • And just to point to everyone else in here – I agree with Bryce’s comment here.

          Yes (now after pondering and reflection) Iower speed limits (outside of the motorway) actually have double worth. As you said Bryce – it increased the chance of pedestrian survival but also in some cases traffic flows could be more efficient (racing to the next set of lights is inefficient as well as dumb) – umm the on-ramp signals being an example, I always try and maintain an even low speed until I hit the white line and green light allowing me to take off. The “rolling” is kinder on my car and if everyone else is doing it, it stops the jerk stop start ripple effect and keeps everyone moving (I really need a virtual simulator to show what I mean)

  • Emma

    Albert/Victoria is spectacularly badly timed – when you’re coming down Albert, turning left onto Victoria heading away from the city, it’s quite possible to end up missing your green light entirely if the pedestrians are ambling across slowly. Very frustrating. No excuse for hitting pedestrians, of course, but I can see how careless drivers make stupid decisions.

  • I’d recently given a submission to Wellington City Council that described pedestrian behaviour in terms of costs and benefits. On the benefit side of dodging cars is time – quicker arrival to destination. On the cost side is personal risk analysis. People are very, very bad at personal risk analysis. My suggestion was to decrease the benefit of running by giving pedestrians higher-frequency access across busy intersections and thereby reducing the time to arrival advantage against waiting. The context was along the Golden Mile, but we have plenty of examples outside the CBD that should have the same treatment applied.

    I also have a serious problem with people running red lights. As soon as a driver decides to beat a red, they have given up any attention to unexpected events and any ability to evade. There is no backup safety plan. Speed is up and reaction times are down.

  • Ari

    Bryce, I think the issue is that pedestrians are more vulnerable when distracted than someone in a car and so must be more careful when crossing the road even if they do have right of way when crossing. it is just common sense. however there should be more significant enforced penalties on drivers because Auckland has a major problem with dangerous drivers and red light running. pity that the camera program is tied up by bureaucracy.

    Matt, “abuse”? are you referring to your opinions being contradicted by other opinions that have factual basis? this is normally called a discussion. You do yourself a disservice by discouraging any opinion other than your own but I digress.

    The herald is likely commenting on data from the national police crash database. the police determine who is at fault for insurance purposes etc. they decide and record if a pedestrian is at fault. I would be interested to see if how deep they went into the crash info. more often then not it is a careless pedestrian but the underlying issue is why they do it. I suspect that in some cases the pedestrian delay is too high and they run across early without checking properly. in other cases they mistake a parallel crossing noise for a perpendicular crossing noise. these are issues that may not be recorded by the police and so can lead to the underlying problem being missed altogether.

    • In a system with frequent high speed free left turns for vehicles that pedestrians have to somehow get across even to get to the beg button to ask to cross the bit of the road controlled by lights [yes I'm thinking of you Stanley and Beach Rd intersection- straight off a motorway no less!] it would be pretty hard for the police to find a motorist ‘at fault’ in any accident as they have permanent priority. This kind of road design basically makes the presence of a human there at anytime an existential proposition. They are already at fault by not being in a car. If this is the standard then it is appalling.

      Clearly free left turns have no place in urban areas, but until such a time as this lethal piece of engineering can be fixed it at least should offer the safety of a pedestrian crossing so that the onus is on the user of the lethal weapon at this location. Vehicles should be being calmed at this point anyway from their drivers’ motorway mindset. Good conservative engineering practice wouldn’t you say?

      • Bryce P

        These should be banned immediately. All of them, unless they are controlled by lights, in which case they can have a slight reprieve :-)

        • The next intersection up Stanley Sy has three of these. Shame on you AT, or is it NZTA, or both? Remember these public ‘amenities’ are between a dormitory suburb and the biggest pedestrian attractors in the country; the AK CBD and two universities.

          If there are not as many pedestrians trying to use these intersections as you’d expect it can only be because the road design has succeeded in scarring them off. Strangely, most people seem prefer their daily commute with a little less physical risk than the standard clearly assumes. Whimps.

          • Bryce P

            The one I use regularly is from Lincoln Road turning into Central Park Drive out west. Cars turn across a cycle lane and virtually no one stops to look. I am aware of it and I am a pretty cautious driver but have even found myself almost not stopping because there is no real cause to do so and the visuals are at best very poor.

      • If it is any thing Patrick being a frequent traveller at that left turn I cringe every time I come towards it as even with maximum precautions it is still a waiting for an accident to happen.

        Every time I come to it I indicate well in advance and drop my speed right down to near walking pace as the dividing triangle shoulder begins. My first priority and attention is not to whether cars are racing across Beach Road or not so that I can proceed. My first priority and attention is to the pedestrians in the area wanting to cross the road. Basically once my front wheels are on the white line, then attention turns to Beach Road.

        That turning bay is just too hazardous to go flying through and collecting someone through no fault of their own in this case as it is uncontrolled sticks for life (which makes it different to the case I made in another quote)

        So yes Patrick, at that particular piece I proceed with absolute caution with speed dropped right out…

        • This response is missing the point, as does most of the herald article and the views of that cop. To rely on excessive caution and constant undivided attention on the part of drivers at all times is naive and foolish. We are all drivers, we are all aware of the conflicting, confusing, and distracting demands on our attention while hurtling along in a ton of tin in strangely relaxing comfort. Nor can we expect pedestrians to not also be human. No, we all know that what is need is road design that forces us to be careful, that we can’t use without avoiding tragedy. The point is surely to avoid finding ourselves arguing about who’s fault the ‘unfortunate event’ was….

          This is just straight-out terrible design. It can only have come from a mindset that sees the constant uninterrupted flow of vehicles as the over-ridding all important priority. A priority that is more important than the safety of humans not in cars. I really don’t see how this intersection and those like it can be read in any other way….?

          • It doesnt miss the point Patrick, it highlights that we are put into a situation where we are or need excessive caution due to bad road design such as that slip bay.

            The moment my attention comes off that piece of road for what ever reason is the day I bet I will collect someone.

          • Bryce P

            I think you guys are saying the same thing in a different way :-)

        • Brodie Davis

          Surely the best option in this example, is as the car driver stop your vehicle and wave the pedestrians across? There should really be a zebra crossing there to force drivers to have this behavior on these types of slip roads (like they did for the symonds street to K rd left turn slip).

          • Liz

            Except that drivers often don’t even see the pedestrian crossing. They are too busy watching the oncoming traffic. I used to cross at the zebra crossing on the left turn slip road at the corner of Mt Wellington Hway and Ellerslie Panmure Hway, and drivers regularly went straight over the zebra crossing without even glancing at it…

      • starnius

        Stanley Street is a state highway but the side streets are Council, so the onus is both on NZTA and AT.

    • Frank E

      Matt, where exactly do you get ‘a lot of abuse’ from engineers. Is it ‘abuse’ just because they disagree with you. BTW I completely support improving the pedestrian landscape throughout the city.

  • Malcolm M

    The beneficiaries should be agitating for more pedestrian priority in traffic light sequences.

    More pedestrians = higher land values

    It should really be Heart of the City agitating for the change.

    In the Melbourne CBD the Council went against the position of their own traffic engineers and instigated a more rapid cycle time, which favoured pedestrians and trams over other traffic.

  • Ari

    I definitely think the law should be changed to give pedestrians right of way and the ability to left turn on red like in the US. both these changes would make a positive improvement for pedestrians.

    left turn slips are regularly being removed but I think the jury is still out on whether it is safer or not. putting a zebra in is the worst thing you can do. pedestrian accidents increase in some situations. removing slip lanes also can dramatically increase pedestrian delay, so it is a compromise between safety and delay.

    • Interesting. So giving the pedestrian priority doesn’t work? [although it would certainly change the fault statistics] How could that be? Could it be that our roads have trained us drivers to expect the right of way at all times? This is my very point; that is the world on its head, this is the world that the standard of the last 60 years has made in NZ. That is why we are routinely considered such poor and discourteous drivers. We just don’t share the roadspace at all. Auto-privilege has made us terrible impatient and selfish people the moment we get behind the wheel.

    • Bryce P

      The safety of Zebra crossings can be improved by a huge margin by clear marking of the crossing. Installing led marker dots on the road as per the example on Lower Hobson Street (Street view doesn’t show them so I’ll have to take a trip down there for a pic). If you miss seeing these you shouldn’t have a licence. Lower road speed – 30 km/h – also would make a valuable contribution to the safety of crossings.

    • starnius

      Ari is correct that if all one does is mark a zebra crossing over a slip lane, crashes / injuries actually go up. So no, that’s not the way to go. Reversing the “at fault” doesn’t help the poor person who got run over.

      Putting a raised table across the slip lane is actually a very good solution, especially if combined with a zebra. However, AT are generally opposed to that in areas where buses or trucks are expected to be using it (read: most intersections where people want them installed, because I have rarely seen AT ever admit that they were willing to NOT consider any particular street as important for trucks – another example of our motor vehicle centricness).

      So there remains the removal. It doesn’t actually save much roadspace (those huge trucks we insist on designing for still have to be able to make the turn), and it doesn’t even necessarily make a walk across town faster (only phasing pedestrian signals quicker / more often will do that), but at least we’d have better actual / perceived safety.

  • Talk about selective quoting….The article also stated:

    “A small number get hit by cars that might be going through a red light or not watching.”

    I’m not apologising for motorists or bad road design but I see a lot of bad walking on my daily commute (a 40 minute walk). So the question is “What percentage of accidents are a) The pedestrians fault, b) The motorists fault, or c) roading design?”. Let’s concentrate on what can be fixed rather than link bait article headings.

  • Robin

    As a ‘commuter’ pedestrian I’ve had my fair share of near misses from agressive and risk-taking motorists. I’d be interested to know what evidence Inspector Macdonald has for his claim that ‘the majority of pedestrians hit simply “are not thinking about what they are doing”.

    My observation is that the risks relate to 1.Driver attitude 2.Road design 3.Pedestrian behaviour. Driver attitude is the biggest issue I think by a long shot. When I’m walking for pleasure, I can avoid the more urbanised streets and more pedestrian unfriendly environments – it’s always a reminder of how poor our pedestrian environment is in the city.

  • Ben H

    As a commuter cyclist I’ve had my fair share of near misses from pedestrians stepping out into the road without looking! Far more common for me than near misses with cars or buses.

    • Robin

      Heh – I’ve nearly been knocked over by cyclists sneaking up behind me on footpaths. Don’t you guys know what those little bells are for? Let alone the flying cyclists zooming along the roads. But cyclists are a very minor hazard for pedestrians – and I admire the fact that you’re not driving.

      • Ben H

        Aye, the point is it’s not driver attitude but those pedestrians who are in la la land as they walk. Every day I see scores of pedestrians checking for traffic after they have stepped onto the road. If you happen to be right there when it happens there is little or nothing a driver or cyclist can do about hitting them.

        Sadly Pedestrians are not a minor hazard for a cyclist when you reflexively swerve to avoid them and run under a bus. There should be training in how to run over pedestrians without endangering yourself…

  • Chris

    I agree with the article, pedestrians are usually to blame.

  • qwerty

    Ari’s comments are quite correct. Whilst drivers may have right of way the majority of them will still exercise caution which is sensible. I am always worried about driving along K road at night or along Queen Street and somebody trips over or falls into the road, whose fault would that be if i drive over them?

    The same needs to apply to pedestrians as well, they have some responsibility to look left and look right before they cross, even if they have a green man nobody should just walk onto the road without looking, as there are always the odd drivers who edge their bets and take the chance. Unfortunately the pedestrian needs to take the lead as they will come off far worse if they get hit.

    • James M

      I think the ‘responsibility’ argument (of peds v cars) needs to be tempered with the magnitude of what damage each method of travel can do.

      While pedestrians do have a responsibility to look before crossing, the simple fact is that pedestrians are slow-moving and cause next to no damage if they hit something (low kinetic energy). Cars, on the other hand, typically weigh over a ton and travel many times faster than peds – consequentially they have a LOT more kinetic energy, and cause real damage when they collide with something. Moreover, cars are very good at externalising the cost of any collision they are involved in onto the other party no matter who is at fault – we know who wins from car v ped (or car v cyclist or car v motorcyclist). And the standard of driving is appalling in New Zealand – red light and stop-sign running is endemic, indicating optional and lane-changing erratic and unpredictable.

      As a result, I think the ‘pedestrians need to take more responsibility’ argument is a bit of a red herring given the argument above, and the fact that the majority of Auckland streets are designed to give 100% priority to cars, with pedestrians (and cyclists) a mere afterthought.

  • People are both drivers and pedestrians so why do we get in a car and a red fog comes over our eyes and makes us not share the road. We need to make eye contact person to person. I See You not ICU (intensive care unit)

  • Dave T

    Sorry Patrick but you call the left turn junctions lethal engineering, but the junction with the worst accident record in the city has none then ask someone for evidence for a statement that accuses peds as being at fault.
    Now I hate cars in the city, but lets not get ahead of our selves.
    What is the more dangerous junction form, what is the out ome we want for Auckland, THEN how do we get there. Please try not to jump to the answer that is apparent to you but not others (at least not yet),

    • It seems likely to me that Stanley St, for example, presents such a barrier that people are discouraged from walking there, I know I am. There are certainly fewer pedestrians crossing there than you would expect given its location between the city, the universities and an inner suburb. The auto privileging appears to be self fulfilling here. Anyway this one corner is symptomatic of road design in Auckland that feeds driver behaviour, the expectation of right of way and the idea, unsupported in fact that the burden of responsibility in machine on human collisions rests largely with the victim.

      That it isn’t the worst intersection in Ak for injury stats means it’s OK? Do these stats take into account ped numbers?

      Anyway a policeman was interviewed for a newspaper, road design is not his area, so is it surprising that he appeals to people to be more careful? At least the AT guy mentioned the role of road design.

    • Bryce P

      I cannot find stats for NZ but if you sit at one of these junctions and watch car drivers they are looking for one thing – cars coming from the right. If you were to place a pedestrian crossing at one of these, it had better be on a table because drivers inevitably do not view pedestrians as a threat but a car is. They don’t mean to think like this, it’s human nature. I’ve done it myself and I cycle as well so should be very aware. There needs to be some way of slowing the cars as they approach the turn bay or just get rid of them and make it a normal left turn lane which usually means a stop sign or lights.

      • Exactly, that’s the point, we need road design that helps us as drivers, almost forces us, to take into account other road users as well as the big ones like ourselves. The example above doesn’t. That’s all. No idea why this thought leads to such an outpouring of defensiveness by some.

        • qwerty

          most if not all drivers do take into account other users Patrick. do you need to be forced to think? are you one of the bad drivers who hit poor pedestrians and then blame the road layout?

          • Bryce P

            Road engineers design roads like this all the time. Lane widths for a start. Median barriers down the motorway. Armco around road side objects (got to keep those drivers safe). etc etc. Doing the same for keeping pedestrians safe is just another example.

          • starnius

            As Bryce notes – good road design DOES NOT ASK FOR CULPABILITY. It prevents crashes / reduces harm (either by using barriers, or by reducing speeds, especially in urban areas).

            If taken in extremis (warning, hyperbole), you might as well put up a sign on a motorway: Do not swerve into opposing lane, and remove the central crash barrier. You don’t. Because it doesn’t matter who is at fault, if you can prevent the crash in the first place.

            Strange that NZ has a “no fault” accident insurance, but still fixates on the guilt question.

          • You’re not facing the front qwerty, it’s never the result of crappy road design it’s always the pedestrians’ fault for carelessly being out of a car in this traffic engineers world.

    • starnius

      Pedestrian-hostile engineering need not be lethal at all to “work”. All you need is for it to discourage pedestrians from even giving it a go. Or giving them a good scare, so they pay particular attention, so they won’t get lambasted by someone (like the local policeman) for “having brought it upon yourself”.

      Is that the kind of city we want? Where the most vulnerable* among us get constant cues that they better stay away or be afraid, for their own safety?

      * Even NZTA and Auckland Transport constantly use that term – most vulnerable – for peds and cyclists.

  • NCD

    caa.org.nz recently had a great post on speed and safety, including this stunning article in the British Medial Journal: http://tinyurl.com/bd3ls8n
    In short: by reducing speed limits in London to 30km/hr, the areas that did so got a 40% reduction in injury rates, and and even higher reduction in fatalities and injuries to children. I find it very hard to believe any supposed productivity losses from the slower speeds aren’t made up for by the economic benefit on not mowing each other down.

  • Bob Scott

    Take a look at the “crossing points” in the main street of Warkworth (Queen St), where they installed about 12 months ago, raised crossing points clearly designed as such as they have resurfaced the road on those areasand the fact that they are raised surely indicates that they are pedestrian crossing points. However, they caused so much confusion that they have had to erect signs at each one to say “Warning, motorists have priority”. This is in the main shopping street, a road approx. 800m long with only 1 zebra crossing, where the speed limit is 50!!!! Can they be serious?

    • Insane; signs and physical structures in conflict, exactly what not to do. And 50 is nuts in that village.

    • Bryce P

      Just put ped x’ing signs up and paint the crossings already! Give the pedestrians the right of way.
      It would be interesting to get some data on vehicle speeds along that piece of road. I bet it’s pretty close to 30 km/h anyway. Just needs to be formalised.

  • IanL

    “More than 700 pedestrians have been hit by cars at Auckland intersections over the past four years, and most victims were not paying attention to vehicles around them, distracted by cellphones or music players or succumbing to their own impatience.”

    I don’t care if they were in the middle of the road dancing gangnam style it is NOT their fault if someone else’s vehicle hits them. It is overwhelmingly the car which hits the pedestrian, not the other way around. I don’t know about here, but in the UK if I drive into the back of a moving car the law says that it is ALWAYS my fault, no exception. This is so because the driving code requires me to ALWAYS leave enough space in front of me so that I can stop in an emergency before I hit something. Simple!

    • Oh but Ian here it is much more important that traffic speed and flow is unimpeded at all times. 700 maimed and killed people small price to pay for those extra couple of kph for drivers….

      “More than 700 pedestrians have been hit by cars at Auckland intersections over the past four years, and most victims were not paying attention to vehicles around them, distracted by cellphones or music players or succumbing to their own impatience.”

      But anyway where is the evidence for this statement? I suspect it’s circular, ie they can’t have been paying attention or they wouldn’t have been hit. Surely the same holds for the drivers?

    • Gian

      “It is overwhelmingly the car which hits the pedestrian, not the other way around”.
      The other day I was in a car driven by a kiwi colleague and he couldn’t understand this simple concept. He found it very stupid that they do it that way in Europe…

    • qwerty

      @ianL…. but if a car was to drive straight out of a driveway without stopping it would be their fault if you hit them. not sure how many times that you follow a pedestrian on a road. it is NOT the drivers fault if some @sshole walks out into traffic without looking.

      • Bryce P

        People make mistakes. Unfortunately, around town, pedestrians are very prone to serious injury or death if they make one but a car driver isn’t. If you are driving a motor vehicle you carry a big responsibility for the lives of those around you as you have size and momentum on your side (not to mention airbags / esp / seat belts etc).

      • starnius

        No, it is not, if he steps out 3m in front of them, then of course a driver is not at fault. Arguably however, if he steps out at a distance where the driver realistically COULD have stopped in time, had he/she been alert and driving at normal speed, then the motorist WOULD be at (shared) fault.

        Lots of countries have such shared fault rules – sure, it may occasionally “catch” the wrong person who gets blamed when he/she really couldn’t have done something, but man, what an incentive to really take care when handling that massive load of metal, especially in urban areas.

        • qwerty

          @starnius…. agree with your first paragraph, although if the driver could have stopped in time then he should have and he would be at fault if he hit the ped.

          i dont understand why this is so hard for some of the sensationalists on here to get their head round, its as if they think that the driver keeps going even if he can see someone on the road in front of him. it is very obvious that if a car hits a ped then the car comes off better thats why it is even more important for people to watch where they go, expecting to just walk out onto the road whenever you want and the cars suddenly stop (unless you are at a ped crossing) is ridiculous and if you think that you just automatically blame the driver then you are very naive and arrogant

          • Gian

            the problem is that here drivers when they see a ped in their way, first they honk, then they swear at the ped, then they put down the mobile phone and when they brake it could be too late.

    • Mr Anderson

      Brilliant Ian. Perfect.

      Goodness knows why if a car stops randomly in the middle of the road and I drive into the back of them it’s my fault but if a pedestrian stops randomly in the middle of the road and I drive into them it’s their fault.

      • Ben H

        +1

        Obviously really, if a Ped steps into the road and is immediately hit by a car travelling from the right, as the MOT stats on Ped crashes in NZ show to be majority of cases, then it is clearly the Ped’s fault with little the driver can do.

        • Anna

          Have to agree with an earlier writer. There is a tendency to view peds and drivers as if they are different species when clearly we are not. Whether driving a car or walking at times we can err. No one does it deliberately it just happens. The existence of acc and no blame mean that we are all a little cushioned from the full consequences, and believe that greater onus should be on people driving cars to watch out for people walking. Just like people on bikes need to take greater care to protect people walking. It is a basic principle to look out for more vulnerable. As to mr of plods cooments I tho k you will find that liability about 50/50, but the cas classifications are very limited … Something like heedlessly entered road. Not much refinement so looks like liability when maybe not.

  • Dave T

    Are you a troll Patrick? For the love of god. No-one is contesting accidents are not a bad thing. But you have a preconceived opinion, the facts as they stand do not back you up. So you dont like the stats, I don’t like the lottery draw every week. That don’t change the numbers
    How about:
    Find all the junctions that have had the left turns removed and run a search on accidents before and after.
    If the stats indicate the lefts are better for safer pedestrian outcomes, evaluate if the injuries to pedestrians vs the improvent to civic ammenity in areas such as the City centre is worth the cost.
    If not, and left slips are still not what we want, look at opinions to either reduce vehicle speeds (reducing pedestrian trauma) or reduce the vehicle numbers (reducing likelihood).
    Evidence, if we are going to win this war against the car we need to be smarter against the vested interests.

    • starnius

      Dave T – facts can change an experts minds. The public is swayed by emotion, and standing at a dangerous ped crossing, people don’t get out a study report. Only engineers like me do.

      Pedestrians know what FEELS unsafe and and what FEELS unfriendly to them. So the responsibility should be inverted: Engineers should prove that the proposal that pedestrians hate is so much SAFER for them, sufficiently so that it is a valid choice despite them hating it.

  • Andrew

    The Albert/Victoria intersection seriously needs a Barnes Dance pedestrian phase. Consider:
    - it is the main walking route between Queen St and the Skycity entertainment area and destinations beyond such as the Les Mills gym
    - it is the main walking route between Midtown/Civic and the Inner Link route heading west
    - it is the main walking route to almost all Birkenhead Transport buses and some West Auckland routes
    - this walking route and both mentioned bus routes are often in conflict with the shared ped phasing where buses turn left from Victoria eastbound to Albert northbound
    - the lights either side of it on Victoria St are Barnes dances. A Barnes Dance phase would resolve the problem of peds beginning to cross when they hear the other crossing beeper start.

    • Mr Anderson

      I almost got run over once due to that “hearing the wrong crossing beeper” issue at that very intersection.

      • qwerty

        you should have been watching what you were doing and pay attention. just by putting your excuse in inverted commas doesnt mean it was somebody elses fault.

      • I saw tourists almost get plugged recently too. They wrongly assumed that the beeper meant barnes dance. How could you blame them – the stripey diagonal indicators are so small. I guess they should have been “paying attention”.

        • qwerty

          how did you know they were tourists? how did you know that they interpreted beeper as barnes dance? even i dont know which interesections you can diagonally cross on and i work on queen street, although thats not saying much. however all i do is hold fire for a second or two until i see the rest of the people make their move then i know. i dont just walk onto the road when i hear the bleeper that is just stupid or suicidal. have you seen how fast the buses go past?

          • Kent Lundberg

            They were wearing zip-off cargo pants and reading lonely planet. They were trying to cross diagonally when the beeper went off. Yes, I’m keenly aware how fast the buses go past.

            “even i dont know which interesections you can diagonally cross on and i work on queen street”- exactly.

          • So you wait a few seconds so that other people can be stupid and suicidal first, then you follow their lead? You’re personal solution is to just let other people take the risk first and copy them if no one gets hit. How very humane of you.

          • qwerty

            dont get personal guys you are at risk of losing the rest of your credibility.

            my presonal solution is 1. not to just blindly walk out into traffic when i hear the beeper, and 2 to understand the way the intersection works by watching other people. the exact same thing i do when i am in a foreign country.

            Nick R, another name to add to the sensationalist list. Stop paraphrasing you dont do it very well.

  • TheBigWheel

    “I don’t care if they were in the middle of the road dancing gangnam style it is NOT their fault if someone else’s vehicle hits them. It is overwhelmingly the car which hits the pedestrian, not the other way around.”

    Exactly, Ian. It is the driver of the car who has the overwhelming responsibility in a car v pedestrian. Or car v bike.

    Or rather, it ought to be here in NZ, exactly as it is in many European countries. Countries with lower road death rates. Of drivers, pedestrians and cyclists that is.

    Holland was where we are in the 70s and there was essentially a social revolution against all the senseless 100s of deaths especially of children. So we are 40-50 years behind continental Europe, and I would say 20-30 years behind UK.

    In Ak, there must be 100x fewer zebra criossings than there should be. Starting with every single one of those ridiculous left turn racetracks. Including the one at the top of my street that I conveniently drive round invariably at 30-40 k and my own children have to cross every day. Outside the city, I honestly can’t believe almost every single coastal holiday development is designed in exactly the same way.. cul-de-sacs you can’t walk though, wide roads, racing track corners, NO segregated cycle tracks..

  • Another aspect to this discussion is those of disabled people. I was talking to my mum about this topic today as she is disabled (severe arthritis) and said that she often struggles to even get off the footpath and onto the road by the time the green man phase has ended and so it is difficult for her to get across the street by the time the red signal has stopped flashing.

  • LucyJH

    ok, so I didn’t read every comment in this discussion but it’s fairly easy to see who is at fault in most crashes that get reported to the police. http://www.transport.govt.nz/research/Documents/pedestrian-crash-facts-2012.pdf

    They say:

    “Who was at fault?
    Pedestrians had the primary responsibility for about half of all crashes resulting in the injury of pedestrians. Fault is assigned to a pedestrian only if the driver of the vehicle involved was not found to have the primary responsibility for the crash.
    When the driver is found to have primary responsibility in a crash involving a pedestrian, multiple causes are possible, but the most common contributing factors are ‘did not see other party’ (39 percent of at-fault drivers in fatal crashes, 43 percent of at-fault drivers in fatal or injury crashes) and ‘inattention or attention diverted’ (30 percent of at-fault drivers in fatal crashes, 28 percent of at-fault drivers in fatal or injury crashes). Alcohol/drugs or speed are also common factors, being contributing factors for 27 percent of at fault drivers in fatal crashes and 10 percent of at fault drivers in fatal or injury crashes.”

    They also provide a big list of pedestrian behaviours that lead to crashes – being intoxicated is the biggest risk for adults. For children it is running out into traffic. What is more disturbing, if you ask me, is what a high proportion of pedestrians who are killed in NZ are children – this is something we should be working really hard to change.

    • Bryce P

      Thanks Lucy. Another excerpt from the same document:
      “Speed The faster drivers are going, the more difficult it is to avoid hitting a pedestrian in their path. An alert driver travelling at 50km/h will travel 37 metres after reaction/braking before coming to a complete stop. The same driver travelling at 100km/h will travel 5 metres further than this before even reacting and, once braking has started, will travel a further 69 metres before coming to a complete stop.
      The speed at which pedestrians are struck is important in determining how seriously they will be injured. At 30km/h pedestrians have about a 90 percent chance of surviving the impact of a motor vehicle, whereas if struck at 45km/h they have only a 50 percent chance of surviving3. The risk that speed poses to more vulnerable pedestrians, such as the elderly and children, is likely to be even higher, due to their natural fragility4 and the most likely point of impact of the vehicle.”

      • Bryce P

        The other key point is that at 30 km/h as opposed to 50 km/h there is a much greater likelihood of the driver avoiding the collision in the first place.

      • Andrew

        I believe responsibility should be proportional to the damage your chosen method of transportation is capable of causing.
        A car vs pedestrian collision is pretty much always going to have worse results than a pedestrian vs pedestrian collision.

        Which means in terms of taking greater responsibility for causing injury, motorist > cyclist > adult pedestrian > child pedestrian.

        Of course, the motor industry had to invent “jaywalking” in the first place to try and get around this.

    • Yes, so human error is reliable in all situations. So what is needed are structures and rules that lower the likelihood and severity of these accidents. And as is referred to above as being proven to work overseas is slower calmer traffic and less auto-privilege.

      • Bryce P

        Yes. Now how the heck do we get those who make these decisions to take notice? Ideas anyone? Follow the Dutch route and organise mass protests?

        • Mr Anderson

          Pick 5 quick, cheap and easy things that Auckland Transport could do to improve life for pedestrians and then hassle Auckland Transport mercilessly until they’re completed?

          • qwerty

            1. increase money spent on educating children about the dangers of road hazards;
            2. educate teenagers on the risks of alcohol abuse;
            3. increase wardens/ambassadors at busy intersections in the CBD at night to assist the p!ssheads;
            4. ensure that the correct signage and markings are in place on the road corridor and lighting is in working order;
            5. build the CRL so you dont need to walk from the bars in Britomart to the clubs on K’road at 3am on a sunday morning, OK thats not cheap

          • Mr Anderson

            6. Write “blame the pedestrian” in big letters everywhere?

          • Ari

            What Mr Anderson said. Identify easy things for AT to do and then harass them politely, get the local board to support it. If you keep harassing on the basis of safety, then it is more likely to happen. AT probably already thought of half of the things but don’t have the budget or political support to do it.

      • qwerty

        interesting reading of some of the pedestrian factors:- Intoxicated, crossing heedless of traffic, playing/sitting/lying on the road, running leedless into traffic.

        those poor helpless pedestrians.

        • Bryce P

          Compare that with motor vehicle deaths and the billions that we spend to over come the road toll and congestion. Asking for lower speed limits or some relatively cheap road changes to benefit pedestrians? Madness obviously.

  • Sacha

    Interesting the strong emotion aroused by posts about responsibility.

  • Bob Scott

    Quotes from insurance claim forms in the UK, which are apparently genuine.
    1. I bumped into a lamp- post which was obscured by pedestrians.
    2. Going to work at 7am this morning I drove out of my drive straight into a bus. The bus was 5 minutes early.

    • Stu Donovan

      Hilarious. An old guy (chronic alcoholic) who lived on the same street where I grew up once crashed into a ditch. He subsequently tried to claim that he was “avoiding being abducted by aliens”. Could not understand why neither the Police nor the Insurance would accept his explanation, even though he was waaaaaaaaaaay over the limit.

    • David T

      A couple more:
      “I turned into the wrong driveway and hit a tree I do not have”

      After an accident with a pedestrian:
      “I had to swerve several times before I hit him”

  • Stu Donovan

    I feel like this debate has become unnecessarily polarised.

    Surely the appropriate question is less about “who is to blame”, because the instances vary greatly from one incident to the next, but instead whether there is an underlying pattern to these accidents that we can change? Factors such as the design of our cities/streets and/or pedestrian/driver attitudes come up most regularly in the comments above.

    I suspect there are likely to be many accidents where the pedestrian is primarily at fault, but where appropriate street design would have greatly reduced the likelihood and severity of accidents. For example, there are many intersections in Auckland city centre where pedestrian crossings have been unnecessarily dropped (I know they are dropped unnecessarily because I have studied the signal phases). In these cases pedestrians have a choice: Follow the rules and wait for interminably long (2-3 separate and often uncoordinated phases) to get where you want to go, or run instead across the road (Kitchener and Victoria I’m looking at you).

    Those pedestrians that subsequently chose the latter (i.e. run across the road) are technically at “fault” insofar as they did not follow the rules and cross at the appropriate place, but that is an extremely superficial interpretation that ignores the degree to which people’s poor decision-making may be greatly influenced by the surrounding environment. How many fewer people would run across the road if there was suitably located crossings with reasonable signal cycles? A lot fewer I suspect. That’s not to say we could eliminate pedestrian accidents through design, as some people do just have brain explosions that end tragically, but that we could greatly reduce the risk of it happening.

    Like many complex statistical phenomena it’s not a black and white, right or wrong, sort of debate. Personally, I feel much safer walking around streets in Amsterdam and even in Brisbane (two very different cities) than I do in Auckland. In Brisbane people seem to drive even faster than Auckland so I’m fairly sure it comes down to some elements of their street design, especially relatively short cycle times at busy intersections (not all mind you).

    • Bryce P

      The simple Dutch concept of “forgiving roads” is a good start. If it’s good enough to give car drivers a road where the consequences of a mistake can be minimised (motorway design is a good example as is the 100 km/h speed limit) then surely we can do the same for urban roads given the potential for conflict between cars and pedestrians / cyclists?

      If we can quickly and easily identify problem areas where pedestrians, for one reason or another, are statistically more at risk then that’s a good place to start. Consistent intersection design and operation, in the down town area, may be a good place to start. Lower speed limits in areas frequented by pedestrians is another (ie. Queen St and 30 km/h). I understand that the down town part of Auckland is going to see a lot of this over the next little while.

      In the same way that a road toll of zero is unachievable, there will always be situations where pedestrians will do dumb stuff and be badly injured or killed in an altercation with a car but to ignore why these crashes happen and just apportion blame does nothing to improve the situation.

    • Luke C

      of course long cycle times increase pedestrian walking times, and therefore affect PT by reducing walking catchment of PT esp stations.
      In general the pedestrian environment makes a big difference to PT catchment areas. People will be fine walking 1km down Queen St, but less so 1km down Great South in Penrose or Manukau, or even Great North Road around Arch Hill.

  • Ari

    As far as I know AT already reviews accident patterns at most intersections and makes improvements to fix these patterns, but some accidents are just random that can’t be mitigated by small physical improvements.

    It has already been pointed out that high cycle times are a cause of pedestrians becoming impatient and running across the road. For the record, Barnes Dance/Exclusive ped phases improve safety but do increase delay for most pedestrians other than ones wanting to cross diagonally.

    • Depends on how many times the scramble is used in the phasing sequence.

    • Yes, well improve the pedestrian cycle times then. Double phased Barneses have done wonders on Queen St.

    • Bryce P

      You’re right Ari, but I get the distinct impression from a meeting I had with AT that they will do so only if cars are not inconvenienced. That’s the issue really. Why else would you get rid of pedestrian crossings rather than making improvements to make them safer? My impression is that, if it isn’t in the manual, it’s too hard. Why? Why not lead the charge rather than following? Look at the speed tables out in West Auckland that were obviously designed by someone who had been to Europe. I bet he/she was wishing they could all have been painted as pedestrian crossings (finally the one opposite the train station has been – chalk that one up for pedestrians). There are plenty of good examples around the world.

      • Yeah funny that that one crossing leads to what? AT’s head office……. I guess it’s one they might have experienced occasionally and not from behind the wheel.

        What is the point of the raised bed without it giving priority to the mode it is clearly favouring? To build the thing then insist it means the opposite of what it implies is plain crazy.

        • Bryce P

          There are ‘sharks teeth’ out west as well. I think these are quite effective as a warning of a pedestrian crossing. A definite sign that a former WCC transport person had been overseas or at least had adopted their message.

  • Ben H

    1-5. Pedestrianise Queen Street.

    Most Pedestrian crashes happen around Queen Street therefore pedestrianising it would solve the problem. Of course AT would never be allowed to do that in a million years. It’s the Politicians not AT that you need to go after.

  • LucyJH

    Hi. Just to clarify – when I posted that link to the crash stats report, i was just trying to provide some helpful background info. I don’t necessarily think it is very useful to try and solve traffic accidents through either blaming people or educating to change individuals’ behaviours. instead it is probably more productive to try and engineer for safer environments. As Stu says, look for common themes that are coming up again and again in crashes and you can probably see where some of the solutions should be.

    • TheBigWheel

      I agree, apportioning blame isn’t necessarily helpful. At the end of the day, road safety is everyone’s (all road users’) responsibility.

      Then again as Andrew says, “in terms of taking greater responsibility for causing injury, motorist > cyclist > pedestrian..” Which seems reasonable to me. And several European countries legal approaches to the problem.. and at the end of the day the real problem is injuries and death more than our mere convenience.. whether as drivers or cyclists or pedestrians. Surely?!

      In terms of practical steps.. zebra crossings elevate pedestrians’ priority for not much more than the cost of some painted stripes.. why can’t we have 100s more of them for starters?

  • To an extent, this makes sense, the world is going mad with false insurance claims etc so about time a bit of control and/or common sense prevailed.

  • i got hit by a car on friday in wellington however i dont think it was my fault i do believe cars arent meant to drive fast in parking lanes so they can skip cars in a traffic jam. luckily i wasnt badly injured though i hope i dented his car

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