With the growth in fuel saving, hybrid, and electric vehicles it is increasingly difficult for people with sight loss to identify the presence of a vehicle. However, whilst in principle encouraging vehicle drivers to ‘give way’ to more vulnerable road users is a positive development, in many cases it remains safest for a person with sight loss NOT to proceed in front of car.
Pedestrians waiting to cross a side road need to be able to communicate with the driver and be aware of other road traffic before deciding it is safe to proceed. Typically, this is achieved by a driver flashing their lights or waving the pedestrian on. Clearly, this is often not helpful for a person with sight loss.
Drivers often then resort to hooting their horn – which could mean anything from “go on” to “watch out”.
Proceeding in front of stationary vehicle exposes the pedestrian to other moving vehicles – bikes and scooters over taking or undertaking the stationary car, or a car turning into the road being crossed.
The engines of the vehicle giving way masks any other engine noise, or indeed bikes/scooters.
Our dogs are taught to be aware of moving vehicles and respond to any that may present a threat to safety. However, it is the person who chooses the safe place and time to cross the road. Our dogs already cross in front of cars at controlled crossing points such as zebra and pelican crossings and don’t interpret these differently to an uncontrolled crossing point. Changes to the Highway Code will have little affect on the dogs understanding of safety in traffic.
So, our advice to people with sight loss is to take control of the situation and be clear to the motorist about their intention – waving the car on or stepping away from the kerb edge are clear signals that they are not prepared to proceed. It is often safer for people with a vision impairment to ‘indent’ further into a side road before deciding to cross. However, each person and situation are unique, and thus it is only possible to offer general guidance and advice.