One in eight Irish drivers say that they have either struck a cyclist or had a near miss with one during the past year according to a survey conducted by AA Motor Insurance, which highlights the risks faced by vulnerable road users including motorcyclists, pedestrians and horse riders.
The data, obtained as part of the November 2011 AA Motoring Panel Poll among more than 12,500 motorists in the Republic of Ireland, but also likely to have some similarity to the situation in the UK, found that 12 per cent of motorists said they had either collided with a cyclist during the past two years, or had a near miss with one.
There was no separate breakdown between the two categories of incident, nor did the survey seek to establish who might be perceived to be at fault, but the findings do underline the scale of the issue, as also underlined by comments to a number of articles here on road.cc in which users have recounted their own experience while out on their bikes.
Slightly fewer 11 per cent revealed that they had been involved in a similar incident involving a pedestrian or animal, 5 per cent with a motorcyclist, and just under 1 per cent with a horse and rider. The survey found that in all cases, male drivers were more likely than female motorists to have said that they had been involved in such an incident.
The results of the survey have been published during a week in which the High Court in London made an award of £4 million in damages against a motorist and his insurers following an incident that left a cyclist paralysed and in need of round-the-clock care for the rest of his life.
Along with the survey findings, AA Insurance issued advice to motorists on how to share the road safely with vulnerable users. It also highlighted that many incidents took place in poor weather or during the hours of darkness, and advised those such as cyclists and pedestrians to also take steps to try and ensure their safety.
While nearly half of all incidents took place in daylight hours, 20 per cent were at dusk and 28 per cent during the hours of darkness.
"Given that the peak traffic volumes occur during daylight hours, the number of incidents occurring after dark is disproportionately high," commented Conor Faughnan, Director of Policy at AA Ireland.
"Cyclists travelling after dark should make sure to wear reflective clothing or accessories and have lights at the front and the rear. Pedestrians should also stay visible after dark with reflective and light coloured clothing, stick to footpath where possible and avoid distractions such as texting while walking."
At 17 per cent, compared to a national average of 12 per cent, collisions or near-misses with cyclists were more prevalent in County Dublin than elsewhere, and while Mr Faughnan welcomed a downward trend in cycling casualties revealed by recent official statistics, he urged drivers to be on the lookout for bike drivers.
"While a considerable number of drivers in Dublin have had a scare involving a cyclist, Dublin is actually an extremely safe city in which to cycle and thankfully we¹ve seen a huge drop in traffic fatalities in the capital over the last two years," he explained. "However any life lost, is one too many. We can¹t emphasize enough the importance always checking your mirrors and keeping your full attention on the road."
Around one in five incidents overall were reported to have happened either when it was raining (17 per cent) or when there was mist or fog (4 per cent).
"Naturally road surfaces are slicker and visibility can be affected during downpours, cyclists may swerve to avoid a puddle you won¹t necessarily see, and pedestrians will be anxious to get out of the rain so motorists should exercise extreme care and expect the unexpected," Mr Faughnan added.
AA Ireland advice to drivers on vulnerable road users
- Always check your mirrors for before turning.
- Watch out for cyclists and motorcyclists coming up on your near side when turning left or moving over to the left check mirrors and blind spots carefully.
- Allow at least a metre when overtaking cyclists or horses as they may have to avoid hazards like drains, potholes or debris on the road that you may not be able to see. You¹ll also need to avoid spooking the horse.
- When parking check the door mirror and look behind you before you open the door.
- When turning left allow any cyclist ahead of you to pass the junction rather than overtake them and turn sharply across their front wheel.
- Don¹t overtake a cyclist or horse if you can see that the road narrows ahead.
- Don¹t drive aggressively around cyclists or horses, sound your horn or rev your engine.
- Judge a cyclist¹s approaching speed with care before pulling out at a junction.
- Remember you must give way to all traffic including cyclists approaching from the right on roundabouts.
- Be prepared to wait behind a cyclist or horse turning right in the same way you would for a car.
- At night, use dipped headlights when approaching cyclists. Allow cyclists extra room in wet weather as surfaces will be wet and slippery.
- Always watch out for motorcyclists when emerging from a junction.
- Be extra cautious around schools, sports clubs and areas where children are active.
- If your visibility is reduced slow down and keep your eyes peeled.
Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.