In a moment of weakness earlier this year, I agreed to take part in the Berlin Marathon at the end of September. My youngest son, Ben, mooted the idea of us doing it together. I’ve done a few marathons before, but the last was 15 years ago when I was 44 years of age. The intervening years have held some challenges for me health-wise too. So, of course, when Ben suggested we should do the marathon together, in aid of the charity Shelter, I said…. ’yes’!
At the time of writing this, we are just over 3 weeks away from the race. After a sluggish start, battling all number of aches and pains, I’m getting there. Just.
I’m enjoying feeling reasonbly fit again. Running clears the head too. However, the experience of running on the road again has also reminded me of how poorly and even dangerously, a significant number of motorists’ drive.
Running into trouble
On Thursday last week, I just about had enough free time to run for 40 minutes at the start of the day.
I live in a village where there is one road running through it. Although it is a ‘B road’, it gets reasonably busy at rush hour, as it is a ‘rat run’ to the nearby motorway roundabout. The speed limit is 30 mph throughout most of the village although at either end of the 3-mile-long road, it increases to 40mph.
There isn’t much in the way of pavement on this road – no more than 100 yards or so of narrow pavement on one side of the road.
As a runner, or indeed pedestrian, it’s therefore necessary to run or walk on the road itself, if you need to get anywhere in the village on foot.
The road wasn’t all that busy on the morning in question. This is probably because the schools were closed and many people still away on holiday. Nevertheless, there was enough traffic to make a prudent runner or pedestrian ensure that they had their wits about them.
I always run towards oncoming traffic. That means being close to the kerbside of the road with the traffic in that carriageway coming towards me.
Two things always strike me when I’m running on the road itself;
- About 50% are travelling well in excess of the speed limit of 30mph. I know, I don’t have a speed gun to measure that with. That’s why I say ‘well in excess of 30mph.’ I can’t judge 31 mph; I can judge well in excess, which I guess is likely to be anything from 40mph upwards.
- The number of vehicles that don’t make any real effort to either slow down, when they see me for the first time, or to give me a wide berth, is really worrying.
On this particular day, for the first time since I started running again in earnest, I had a moment when I felt genuinely concerned for my safety. I was approaching a bend when a car came flying around it in my direction. He saw me. Of that, I have no doubt. He was certainly doing well over 30mph. I had nowhere to go on my right-hand side either, because of tall, firm hedges right up to the roadside.
There was nothing coming the other way, so despite his speed, he could easily have given me a wide berth as he passed. Instead, he ploughed on at the same speed and on the same line.
Before I knew it, the vehicle was brushing past me. He left only a matter of inches between his vehicle and my body. I had managed to eyeball him, as he approached. He knew I was there. It wasn’t a case that he didn’t see me, or that he only saw me at the very last minute.
After the vehicle had passed, I must confess that he got a volley of verbal abuse, albeit that it was wasted, as by that stage he’d long since gone.
Could he have done more? Undoubtedly, he could.
- He should have been travelling at a much slower speed for a start.
- He had ample time to move further over to the centre of the road and go past safely, whilst giving me a wide berth.
I was fortunate not to be hit. It has happened to me before in years gone by, when I ran more regularly. Other runners I’ve spoken to, say it happens to them a lot too.
The Highway Code
This incident encouraged me to check the Highway Code, to look at the rules relating to pedestrians walking (running) on the road, where there is no pavement. The relevant rule is contained in number 2 of the Rules for Pedestrians;
“If there is no pavement, keep to the right-hand side of the road so that you can see oncoming traffic.”
Vulnerable Road Users
As road traffic accident lawyers, we talk about vulnerable road users. The three most vulnerable groups of road user, in order of vulnerability, are;
- Pedal Cyclists
- Pedestrians, being the most vulnerable of all.
What this near-miss has really made me reflect on, is how exposed we runners, and pedestrians in general, really are. We are vulnerable to the proximity to us, as we walk or run on the road, of motor vehicles travelling at fast speeds.
30mph is fast. Studies carried out by The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) reveal that a pedestrian hit by a car travelling at between 30mph and 40mph is between 3.5 and 5.5 times more likely to be killed than if hit by a car travelling at below 30mph. Whilst that is a perfect statistic to wave in the faces of those who seem to think that a 30mph speed limit actually means that they may drive at 40mph or more, to me as a runner, it says that if I am hit at 30mph, there is still a fair chance that I will be killed.
When it comes to road traffic accidents and the cause of them, speed is the number one offender.
According to the RoSPA study referred to above;
“Inappropriate speed contributes to around 11% of all injury collisions reported to the police, 15% of crashes resulting in a serious injury and 24% of collisions that result in a death. This includes both ‘excessive speed’, when the speed limit is exceeded but also driving or riding within the speed limit when this is too fast for the conditions at the time (for example, in poor weather, poor visibility or high pedestrian activity).”
At Mooneerams we are specialists in road traffic accident claims. We have recovered millions of pounds worth of compensation for people injured in road traffic accidents. This includes significant amounts of compensation recovered on behalf of clients who have made pedestrian accident claims. Without carrying out a detailed analysis of those pedestrian claims, it is fair to say that excessive speed by a motor vehicle driver was probably the main or a contributing factor, in most of them.
In the last reported statistics on pedestrian accident deaths which were for the year 2017, there were 470 pedestrians killed in road traffic accidents. That was an increase of 5% on the previous years’ figures. It indicates that road safety campaigns are not working. People are still travelling too fast. Pedestrians have a right to walk (or run) along the road, particularly if there aren’t any pavements. They have a right to expect that motor vehicle drivers obey the speed limits and be aware of their possible presence. The roads belong to all road users, not just those on four wheels.
If you have been injured in a road traffic accident that wasn’t your fault, whether in a pedestrian accident or one of another kind, call 029 2048 3615. Your call will be answered by an experienced personal injury lawyer who will be on hand to provide initial free advice on whether you have reasonable prospects of making a claim. If you decide to ask Mooneerams to handle your claim, in most cases, we will be able to offer you the protection of a No Win, No Fee agreement. Call now on 0292 048 3615, contact us online or email [email protected].
Carl Waring is an experienced personal injury solicitor who qualified as a solicitor 30 years ago. He is the Business Development Manager at Mooneerams solicitors in Cardiff. On September 29th he will be running the Berlin Marathon in aid of Shelter, with his son Ben. Anyone who wishes to sponsor Carl and Ben, can do so by visiting https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/BenWaring2 Thank you in advance if you are so kind as to do so.