Caution urged over "Countdown Crossings"

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Caution urged over "Countdown Crossings"

25th June 2010

An expert in serious and fatal road traffic collisions has urged caution over the introduction of so-called "countdown crossing" trials which got underway in London yesterday.

The scheme, originally outlined by London Mayor, Boris Johnson, will see digital clocks installed at pelican crossings in eight London locations, displaying the number of seconds which remain for pedestrians to finish crossing. However, this is likely to be accompanied by a considerable reduction in the amount of time afforded to pedestrians to cross -possibly as much as six seconds.

The Mayor believes the introduction of the timers will smooth traffic flow as well as enable pedestrians to know exactly how much time they have left to cross safely. It is hoped that pedestrians will either speed up as they see the countdown approaching zero or wait until the green man next appears.

Nick Godwin, a specialist in cases involving serious and fatal injuries with Fentons Solicitors LLP, said: "231,000 people in the UK were killed or injured as a result of road traffic collisions in 2008, so clearly any measures designed to help pedestrians avoid injury must be welcomed."

"However, their introduction must not be at the expense of reduced crossing times as this will put pedestrians - particularly the elderly and those with disabilities - at a much greater risk of harm."

Echoing the views of road safety groups including Pedestrian charity Living Streets, Nick said: "If anything, pedestrians should be given more time to cross, not less. Some 500 London junctions fail to give pedestrians the minimum time of 1.2 seconds to cross each metre of road, set by the Department for Transport.

"There is also concern that once the timer reaches zero, drivers will see this as their green light to move off even if pedestrians are still on the crossing, or, worse, begin to rev their engines, causing alarm to pedestrians.

"Drivers need to remember that the Highway Code requires them to give way to anyone still crossing, even after the lights have turned green and are expressly forbidden from revving their engines," said Nick.

Nick has acted for numerous pedestrians killed or injured as a result of road traffic collisions and is fully aware of the devastation to victims and their families that they can cause. "Although official statistics do show road safety is improving, there is still much to be done to reduce the alarming numbers of pedestrians and other road users killed and injured on our roads each year," he said.

Mr Johnson's plan signals a reversal in the policy adopted by former Mayor, Ken Livingstone, in which lights were re-phased to give pedestrians longer to cross.

Transport for London has altered signal timings at 150 junctions and plans to adjust 1,000 sets of lights each year for the next six years.

"Whilst countdown crossings have been in operation in other world cities for some time now - whether they are appropriate for London and whether they will ultimately benefit pedestrians and improve their safety - remains to be seen," said Nick. "The outcome of the trials will need careful scrutiny before any final decisions are made."

How can Fentons Solicitors help?
Fentons has a specialist department experienced in handling claims for victims of road traffic collisions.

If you think that you have a case or require further information contact Fentons on 0800 0191 297 or fill in the online claims questionnaire.

Source - BBC