Road Safety News
 

Report identifies cognitive impairment as common theme in pedestrian fatalities

Tuesday 23rd September 2014

A new report is calling for learner drivers to be trained to look more carefully for vulnerable pedestrians, and to recognise that conditions on the road change constantly.

The Northern Ireland Pedestrian Fatality Report 2014 is an in-depth study of 55 pedestrian fatalities between 2008 and 2012. It suggests that road traffic collision research from numerous countries “highlights that driver visibility during darkness, elderly and intoxicated pedestrians have a common theme which is cognitive impairment”.

 The author, Dr Elaine Hardy - who wrote a similar report in 2012 looking at motorcycle fatalities - was given access to the case files of the Forensic Science Northern Ireland Road Traffic Investigation Team and the Coroner's Service, Northern Ireland.

In the report Dr Hardy advocates the use of technology such as cameras and sensors to help lorry drivers overcome the problem of blind spots. She also encourages the haulage industry to continue to lobby the UK and EU Governments to “change the physical structure of lorries (in order) to lower and extend the front of the cab, allowing drivers to have a wider scope of vision”.

The report found that 35 (64%) collisions occurred in darkness, and in 30 (55%) cases the pedestrians were wearing dark clothing. In 91% of the incidents, the vehicle was being driven within the speed limit.

 Adults made up 56.4% of fatalities, while the elderly (over 70yrs) comprised 31% and children (16yrs & under) 12.7%. 31% were found to have alcohol in their blood at the time of the collision, and all of these cases occurred during the hours of darkness. The average Blood Alcohol Content was 232 mg per 100 ml.

The report was funded by the Rees Jeffreys Road Fund

 

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Derek:
I've just checked the most recent 100 reader comments and they have been made by 28 different contributors. I agree that we do have a small number of very frequent contributors, but we also receive comments from a considerable number of other readers. The stories about speed and speed management tend to produce lengthy discussion threads with multiple contributions by the same people.
Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety News

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+1

Nick you wrote:
"Our discussion threads contain contributions from a wide range of passionate and articulate people, which is great."

I can count the "wide range" within the number of fingers and toes on my body. The regular contributors on this website in 'comments' are less than a dozen, though their individual experiences may be great.

As to what you assume to be an opinion against a fact, please tell me how you can determine which is which? And if report references are linked to, are they still opinions?
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

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0

Elaine's three bullet points are valid and quite real scenarios and I would imagine the reason there aren't a lot more ped accidents in these circumstances is that non 'so-called careless drivers' had anticipated the dangers and kept their speeds low in readiness.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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-1

" impact speeds tell us little about speeds before the accident."

That's not necessarily true.

As a simple example - skid marks from tyres can be used to calculate distance and speed. Other methods can and do include CCTV coverage, Tachographs and a whole other array of methods which these Senior Scientific Collision Investigators use to determine pre impact speed and collision speed.

Also it seems apparent that you have not considered the fact that the driver may not apply the brakes at all - consider that 64% of collisions occurred in darkness - and in most of those cases, the driver did not see the pedestrian and therefore did not apply the brakes. So the logic is that impact speed would have been the same as the speed prior to impact.

The purpose of this report is focussed on cognitive impairment which is a major problem - as that covers the vast majority of the reasons for the collisions - and in my view moves the focus from the so-called careless driver, onto the real problem

• The visibility of drivers can be impaired due to darkness and glare. This is compounded due to the dark clothing of pedestrians which inhibits the drivers to discern them in darkness.
• The elderly are vulnerable road users because of their frailty and at times inability to understand speed and distance.
• Intoxicated pedestrians are a danger to themselves because of the levels of alcohol ingested which cause these pedestrians to be unstable and incoherent.

I was not aiming to satisfy a handful of anoraks with methodology. If you are really interested, I suggest you contact the FSNI to ask for further details.
Elaine, Northern Ireland

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+2

Determining the difference between what is fact and what is opinion dressed up as fact is the test of verifiability.
Duncan MacKillop, Startford on Avon

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+3

Idris:
Our discussion threads contain contributions from a wide range of passionate and articulate people, which is great. Many of these contributions are expressed in such an authoritative and convincing manner that it would be easy for the reader to assume they are factual, which in fact they are simply an opinion. From time to time, in my capacity as editor of the newsfeed, I feel it is my duty to remind readers that what they are reading is an opinion, rather than a fact.
Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety News

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+5

Excellent work but as has been pointed out, impact speeds tell us little about speeds before the accident.

Nick - I am puzzled that you thought it necessary to remind readers that Duncan's point about the importance of truly independent research is "simply his viewpoint". In the first place, I would have thought that would be taken as read in these pages, in the second, I am sure that it is also the the view of Dave Finney, Eric Bridgstock and others, including me, who put in thousands of hours' unpaid effort and not insignificant personal expense to argue their cases.
Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield

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+2

All the relevant information is in the report. e.g.

Page 6 (Methodology): A summary of the case files was compiled in a 132 page report (Northern Ireland Pedestrian Fatality Report 2008 – 2012 Part Two). This document provides the background to the analysis. Due to the confidential nature of the information, this document will not be available in the public domain, but can be requested to read with the permission of the FSNI Road Traffic Collision Investigation Unit.

The collision scenes were attended by an investigator, a PSNI photographer and mapper. The files that the investigators prepare include photographs of the collision scene, witness statements, as well as maps, diagrams, laboratory examinations and their findings which are compiled in a report from each collision investigation.

Typically, the investigator arrives at the collision scene within 2 to 4 hours following the collision. Each collision investigation takes approximately six months to complete. The case files from which this report is based, contain information from the investigators’ reports including their findings and comments.

Page 12 and 13 (Speed): When a pedestrian is struck by a vehicle, part of the vehicle’s momentum is transferred to the pedestrian. A calculation can be performed on various pieces of information to provide an estimate of the vehicle’s speed, provided the impact between the pedestrian and the vehicle is substantial and not partial or glancing; the pedestrian is not carried on the vehicle and the pedestrian is projected in front of the vehicle and the mass of the vehicle is not similar to that of the pedestrian.

In n.50 (91%) of the incidents, the vehicle was not driven at excessive speed. “Not excessive” means not more than the speed limit at the location of the collision, or where the investigator was unable to determine the speed from the distance of the pedestrian throw, the calculation or estimation would be based on the damage sustained (or lack of) by the vehicle, as well as witness statements, CCTV or video footage or in the case of buses and lorries, would include evidence from the tachograph.
Elaine, Northern Ireland

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+4

Yes Dave, I should have included cameras - just as valuable.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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+1

I agree, Hugh, that the report does imply (p12) that the speeds reported were those at impact but I suspect that the report has not explained this very well. I suspect reported speeds will have been the speed at the PPP, or Point of Perceived Perception. This is the speed at the last point that those involved could have avoided the crash. Could Elaine or Trevor please clarify this?

I doubt event recorders would assist crash investigation to a great extent giving perhaps speed, direction, indicators, etc of only the primary vehicle. On-board video cameras, on the other hand, could provide excellent evidence including positions, directions and speeds of primary vehicle and other road users, lines of sight of each road user, identifying potential witnesses, phone use, hit & run, mechanical failure etc.
Dave Finney, Slough

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Dave:
According to the report, only the speed at impact was investigated/calculated (amongst other things by measuring how far the body travelled after being hit!) and even then was a best estimate - it did not take into account the speed of the vehicle on approach in the few seconds before contact. If the drivers were not able to stop in time, it suggests he/she were going to fast to begin with. Hitting a pedestrian at below the speed limit could be the culmination of a driver trying desperately (but failing) to stop from a speed which had been above the speed limit, which is not an unusual scenario. The sooner we have event recorders in all vehicles the better.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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0

This new report into pedestrian fatalities is another high quality report from righttoride and I would like to thank Elaine and Trevor for their interesting replies. The report includes detailed evidence regarding speeding (exceeding the speed limit) which relates to my research.

In 50 of the 55 fatal collisions (91%), the vehicles were not speeding. The report contains more detail about the 5 that were speeding. There were 10 children killed in the 5 year period. The report includes 7 and none of these deaths involved a speeding vehicle.

Speeding was a slightly larger factor in pedestrian deaths in NI than the data suggests in Scotland or GB but is still a lot lower than might seem intuitive and certainly raises questions regarding current government road safety interventions. See 1.7:
http://speedcamerareport.co.uk/01_speeding.htm
Dave Finney, Slough

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+7

Hi Dave Finney,

In answer to your question "I am interested in why our authorities seem unable to perform such good quality research and why is such important work having to be performed by independent researchers and organisations"

In the case of the studies I carried out based on the files from the Forensic Science Northern Ireland - I quote the head of the Investigation Unit.

"In the 27 years I've been doing this, you're the first person to ask".
Elaine, Northern Ireland

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+9

Duncan:
In your post below you say:
"Dave asks why such important work is having to be performed by independent researchers and organisations. The answer I'm afraid is that only the independents will ask the questions that the established road safety industry fail to ask. Without having any political masters to answer to the independents do not need to find fault or assign blame, but will dig deep to expose the complexities of the accident process."

This is, of course, your point of view to which you are perfectly entitled - but I should point out to readers that it is simply your viewpoint.
Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety News

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+6

I have had the pleasure of collaborating with Elaine on a couple of projects in the past and I can state that her work is some of the finest you will ever see.

Dave asks why such important work is having to be performed by independent researchers and organisations. The answer I'm afraid is that only the independents will ask the questions that the established road safety industry fail to ask. Without having any political masters to answer to the independents do not need to find fault or assign blame, but will dig deep to expose the complexities of the accident process.

In this report for example the finding that many people with impaired vision who are unable to receive a driver’s licence still have vision superior to that of a normal person at night is one of those crucial pieces of information that should change the entire way that we look at nighttime accidents. Elaine's findings that the cognitive impairment of the pedestrian due to being drunk or old combined with the visual impairment of the driver due to physiological limitations is one that should find a much wider audience.

In the light of such findings we know that people like getting drunk and they can't avoid getting old so their cognitive impairment is going to be difficult to fix. The visual impairment however is something that deserves much greater study to find ways in which people can understand the limits of their vision at night and to work out strategies that might help ameliorate the problem.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

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+8

Hi Dave

The other half at Right To Ride here - Elaine is the clever half. Indeed Right To Ride does sound like a political pressure group to promote motorcyclists interests, although Elaine has been involved in other issues as well - http://www.righttoride.org.uk/about/

Details on Right To Ride can be found at http://www.righttoride.co.uk/right-to-ride-write-to-ride/about/ and more about us http://www.righttoride.co.uk/right-to-ride-write-to-ride/about-us/

So although "styled" on a typical pressure group what we do is to research and investigate solutions, with the ability to comment in a clear and unobstructed manner.
Trevor Baird Northern Ireland

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+8

The Northern Ireland Motorcycle Fatality Report 2012 is one of the best quality road safety reports (I have a link to it on my website) and we must commend Dr Elaine Hardy on her excellent work. Who are righttoride, though? They sound like a political pressure group to promote motorcyclists interests.

I am interested in why our authorities seem unable to perform such good quality research and why is such important work having to be performed by independent researchers and organisations, such as righttoride?
Dave Finney, Slough

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+8

Was the report really necessary? It doesn't take much imagination to realise that inebriated pedestrians wearing dark clothing in the dark, are at risk from motorised road users who may themselves also be inebriated, although this is not compulsory. I'm sure this scenario is repeated throughout the UK. No mention of action on drunk road-users (of all categories) in the conclusions and recomendations then?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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-10

I thoroughly recommend that everybody reads this report and rather than just scanning the recommendations actually take a look at the very interesting findings.

Although I would have used the term cognitive limitations rather than cognitive impairment the fact that we all suffer from these limitations is something that all of us should know and understand.

Of particular interest is the idea that the Forensic Services Investigators can provide a wealth of information that would be of benefit to the road safety industry. This would be a similar idea to that used in the aviation industry where investigators from the AAIB feed knowledge gained from accidents back into the training and education system.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

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+11

Interesting that the stats for adults was that 31% were found to have alcohol content with an average of 232 per 100 ml, and all were cases occurring during the hours of darkness. Some interesting results there.
Bob craven Lancs

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+11