Pedestrian Safety

Sometimes being a State member gives one the opportunity to have interesting conversations with people within the electorate that sometimes remind us of things that have slipped off the radar. I was approached the other day by a gentleman who asked, “Can the Government please bring back a pedestrian safety campaign?” The perplexed look on my face must have told him that I did not quite follow. He explained that his concerns stemmed from observing that few people appear to know or comprehend a few basic safety rules of the road. What prompted him to call into my office was that on the preceding evening he was travelling on a local road and had to stop for a person walking on the side of the road in the same direction, dressed in black and walking a black dog. The dog walker made no effort to get off the road and was extremely difficult to see.

A couple of days before that event he was driving again on a local road, this time during the day, when he encountered three pedestrians walking three abreast along the road—again on the same side and heading in the same direction. Again he had to stop to avoid hitting them. These pedestrians made no effort to move over to the edge of the road, so he had to drive on the wrong side of the road to get past. He asked me, “How many people use common sense any more when walking on or crossing a road, be it at traffic lights, pedestrian crossings, or just on roads?” My office is situated in the main street of Cessnock, right near a pedestrian crossing. Every day we hear the screech of brakes from vehicles that have to stop suddenly because pedestrians seem to think they can just walk straight out onto those striped lines without looking. It amazes me that some of the semitrailers that use the main street of Cessnock stop in time.

How many times while driving have members had to slow down or stop for someone who walked out in front of them? What would have been the consequences if someone, as the car driver, had not taken all care and responsibility when, clearly, the pedestrian had not? Jaywalking appears to be common practice these days. I must admit to being guilty of it myself. Out the front of Parliament House pedestrians jaywalk with or without the pedestrian lights. Recently I observed a young jogger standing in the middle of Macquarie Street at night dressed completely in black with traffic going past in both directions. I shook my head in disbelief. Had she given any thought to the potential effect on her life, the driver’s life or an observer’s life had she been struck by any of the many vehicles that went past her?

Earlier the same day I observed a tourist in George Street jaywalking at traffic lights. The taxi driver forced to stop for him made his stupidity known to him with a verbal barrage. The pedestrian’s reaction was simply to laugh and wave—again, with no thought of the consequences and no sense of responsibility. My constituent wants pedestrian safety brought back to the forefront of everyone’s minds and to again be taught in schools. He also wants an advertising campaign reintroduced. For those of us old enough, we might remember the little advertising jingle, “Look to the left, look to the right, look to the left again; then if the road is clear of traffic, walk straight across the road, don’t run. Walk straight across the road.” He wants the advertising campaign reintroduced and refreshed for those of us who were taught “We are not six foot tall, we are not bullet proof and safety is not somebody else’s responsibility.”

After spending 10 to 15 minutes with this constituent I had to agree. I guess I had failed to think about this part of my life because this is a daily event. Since this conversation I constantly find I am slowing down for pedestrians, sometimes swerving to go around them when they will not take care on the road. It is almost as though the road has become a pedestrian experience for many. Experience and observations demonstrate that as a society we cannot rely on common sense. These days common sense is anything but common. Society needs to have campaigns like “Stop, Look and Listen” and “Look left, right and left again before you cross the road” brought back into vogue. When I was a kid pedestrian safety was a parenting skill; then it became an advertising campaign when I was a teenager. Now it seems to have disappeared completely. Pedestrian safety is more important now because of all the distractions for pedestrians such as iPods, mp3 players, mobile phones, talking to others, et cetera. I thank my constituent for bringing this to my attention and I happily bring it to the attention of the House. I call on all members to be mindful of pedestrian road safety.