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Be mindful of vulnerable road users

By James Billings
Interim Practice Leader

People on foot and on two wheels are vulnerable to road accidents.

The desire to remain fit and healthy during lockdown has seen more people regularly out walking, running and cycling. Yet with so many more people now getting around on foot, bikes and now also on e-scooters, there are concerns for increased risk to vulnerable road users.

Latest road safety data for Great Britain shows pedestrians account for 26% of road deaths, motorcyclists 20% and cyclists 6%.

Who is at risk?

Vulnerable Road Users (VRU) are generally those who are unshielded by a motor vehicle, for example:


  • Children running out into the road without looking
  • ‘Distracted walkers’ texting or talking on their mobile phones whilst walking
  • People with decreased mobility or difficulties in seeing or hearing approaching traffic

Cyclists and motorcyclists

  • Can be difficult to see, especially at junctions and roundabouts and turning right into a road
  • Can be affected by side winds, causing them to sway or wobble
  • Children on bikes may ride out into the road

Horse riders

  • Horses are easily frightened and can panic in traffic
  • Most accidents are due to vehicles not allowing enough space as they pass
  • Many incidents involving horses happen on minor roads and in rural areas

E-scooter riders

The Government is currently conducting e-scooter trials in several towns and cities to assess their safety and suitability. Concerns include:

  • Small wheels can struggle with uneven surfaces and potholes
  • If the e-scooter has lights, they may be at a very low level and hard to see
  • No mirrors or indicators means it is difficult for riders to see anyone approaching from behind, as well as signalling their intentions to other people

What are the most common risks?

As you might expect, rush hour is the most dangerous time for incidents. Around 80% of cycling accidents happen in urban areas, mainly around T-junctions and traffic islands.

Professional drivers and fleet operators will be familiar with the risks caused by ‘blind spots.’ These are the areas around the vehicle that a driver cannot see by looking through the windows or standard mirrors. Blind spots affect many vehicle types but are especially worrying on larger vehicles such as buses, coaches and trucks. The result could be a driver not seeing a cyclist pedalling up the inside of the vehicle.

Speed is also a factor. Drivers travelling at higher speeds will have less time to react, and the higher the speed, the more serious the accident can be.

  • If a vehicle hits a pedestrian at 30 miles per hour there's a 1 in 5 chance that they will die
  • If a vehicle hits a pedestrian at 40 miles per hour there’s a 90% chance of their death

What can drivers and fleet operators do?

All drivers should exercise basic safety routines, including:

  • When parking, check your mirror before opening the door
  • When turning left let a cyclist in front pass the junction first
  • When turning right move over completely to the far right of the lane
  • Leave as much room as possible when passing cyclists
  • Don’t overtake if the road is narrowing
  • Judge cyclists’ speed carefully as they may be going faster than you think
  • At traffic lights avoid driving into the ‘advanced stop area’ for cyclists
  • If possible, don’t drive in cycle lanes and never park in them
  • On rural roads make sure you can stop well within the distance you can see ahead
  • On wet roads give cyclists extra space, as slick road tyres can slip

Commercial fleet operators can also:

  • Consider the NCAP safety ratings when buying fleet vehicles, including the new commercial van safety ratings produced by Thatcham Research, in cooperation with QBE.
  • If not already, investigate technology to reduce blind spot risks, such as blind spot detection, proximity sensors, wide-angle mirrors and reversing alarms
  • Fit underrun guards to prevent people and objects being dragged under the vehicle
  • Consider the use of speed-limiting systems on fleet vehicles
  • Address any potential driver distractions, such as use of mobile phones at the wheel
  • Use driver training programmes, staff briefings and fleet safety forums to raise awareness of safety issues
  • Monitor driver speed and behaviour by using telematics systems and other safety apps


In summary: increased awareness and vigilance will help to cut the number of incidents involving vulnerable road users.

Risk management services for QBE customers

QBE customers can access a team of in-house risk management experts, who can help formulate a tailored risk management approach for effective solutions and improved outcomes - including protecting employees, making claims less likely, and potentially reducing insurance premiums. You can find out more about how QBE helps businesses to manage risk at

Need to claim? Report it early

Finally, a reminder that if you have an incident and need to make an insurance claim, it’s important that you report it as soon as possible, ideally the same day. Reporting a claim early can save time and help you to receive any claim payments faster.

Your contact

Your contact

James Billings

James Billings

Practice Leader