With the dangers motorists can pose to other drivers, property, cyclists and pedestrians brought to the fore in the media once again, what can we do to protect ourselves against accidents and make sure we don’t lose out financially if we are affected?
Last week, a man was charged with attempted murder in connection with the recent car crash in Westminster, proving just how much damage motorists can cause on our roads. Salih Khater allegedly swerved his car into cyclists and pedestrians at around 7.30am on 14th August before crashing into security barriers outside the houses of parliament. Three people were injured and two were treated in hospital but have been discharged. The crash led to the temporary closure of Westminster Tube Station as well as cordoning off of surrounding streets.
The incident is being treated as a terror attack, with Prime Minister Theresa May stating: “For the second time in as many years the home of our democracy, which is a potent symbol of our precious values of tolerance and freedom, has witnessed terrible scenes just yards from its door.” This time, the weapon of choice wasn’t explosives but something the majority of people in Britain can get their hands on – a car.
Whether as part of a premeditated attack or as a total accident, cars cause damage every day across the UK, from property damage to casualties and even deaths. London in particular, as a built up and bustling capital city, risks such incidents on a regular basis. For 2016, Transport for London (TfL) reported a fall in road casualties in London, reporting the lowest figures since records began, and the city is currently working to improve the safety of its roads, but there is still a lot of danger to look out for.
The Mayor’s Transport Strategy (MTS) was published in June 2017 and sets out the Mayor of London’s policies to reshape transport in London over the next 25 years. The strategy includes Vision Zero which aims to ensure nobody is killed in or by a London bus by 2030, and for all deaths and serious injuries from road collisions to be eliminated in the city by 2041. Steps in the plan include introducing safer speeds; safer infrastructure such as street design; safer vehicles on the streets of London; and safer people – improving the behaviour of motorists and all who use the roads.
Indeed, it looks as through roads are becoming safer in the capital, with car occupant fatalities having halved in 2016 compared to 2015. Most figures fell year on year, but the 2016 stats for London still stand at 25,126 collisions resulting in 30,270 casualties of which 116 were fatal, 2,385 were serious injuries and 27,769 were slight injuries. In addition, KSI (killed or seriously injured) casualties actually showed an increase of 20% year on year – though the report does state this could be in part due to improved reporting by police. Of all casualties, 39% involved car occupants and 18% involved pedestrians. Pedestrians fell victim to 53% of all fatalities while car occupants only made up 9%.
This, coupled with the recent stark reminder to expected the unexpected, shows there is more work to be done and in particular cars can do serious damage to pedestrians, whom with more than 6.5mn journeys walked in London each day, make up a significant proportion of travellers in the city. UK-wide, government figures for 2015 report that road incidents caused 1,732 deaths (that’s around per day), 22,137 serious injuries, a total of 186,209 casualties of all severities, and 140,086 personal-injury road traffic accidents reported to the police.
There are lots of steps pedestrians can take to make journeys safer, and while many may seem obvious they are easy to forget when rushing to work or on the school run. According to the UK government, the most effective tips include paying attention to surroundings, which often with mobile phones involved can go out the window. It’s also important to follow the classic ‘stop, look and listen’ every time you cross the road, as well as avoiding crossing between parked cars or on a bend in the road. Footpaths must be used wherever possible, or if unavailable then pedestrians should walk on the right side of the road, facing oncoming traffic. Fluorescent clothing should be worn during the day and reflective clothing at night.
In addition, while we are all aware of the dangers and legal implications of drunk driving, it has been pointed out that drunk pedestrians can cause a huge risk to themselves and others, and both alcohol and drugs can hamper the brain’s decision-making skills. Being inebriated can make it harder to judge speed and distance of vehicles around you, and government resources recommend always getting a taxi or other lift in these situations, even if your destination is just a short walk away.
In the event you are involved in a road accident, the advice from LegalHelpline.co.uk states that “so long as the accident in question was not your fault, you will be entitled to compensation”. Car accidents include any accident involving a car, and can be caused by anything from mobile phone use or speeding by drivers, to unmarked roadworks. In the event of an incident, compensation can help to cover not just medical costs, but any lost income, travel costs and even counselling services needed due to the impact of the accident.
Though it can be difficult to keep your head after something as traumatic as a road accident, remembering a few steps can make the process of claiming afterward a lot less stressful. These include: taking photos of the scene as well as any injuries; obtaining witness contact information, as you may need people to make statements backing up your claim; taking the other party’s contact information as well as their car make, model and registration if possible; keeping proof of any expenses you may wish to claim; and reporting to the police – this is mainly in case there is a risk to other road users caused by the accident scene, but can also help to keep records for any claim you make later on. In addition, it’s important to remember that car accidents as part of your work could result in “workplace accident compensation” from your employer, especially if they have not provided a safe environment or adequate training.