Heedless pedestrians push up crash stats

KATIE CHAPMAN
Last updated 05:00 21/04/2014

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Wellington jaywalkers are to blame for more than 80 per cent of crashes involving pedestrians in the central city.

New data detailing every crash in Wellington's CBD in the past five years has revealed pedestrians are stepping out without looking and drivers are not paying attention on our streets.

It comes as Wellington City Council is looking to reduce the inner-city speed limit to 30kmh, and is about to launch a $100,000 pedestrian safety campaign reminding people to look before they cross the road.

"It's a basic thing that we all got taught to do when we were kids and we seem to have forgotten," councillor Andy Foster said.

The data provides details of the 648 crashes reported to police from 2009 to 2013 - about 130 a year.

Pedestrians were involved in 99 crashes and were at fault in 80 of them, though some crashes had multiple causes.

The main pedestrian mistake was "crossing heedless of traffic".

But pedestrians are not the only ones failing to look. Driver inattention was also highlighted as a major problem, with 39 per cent of all crashes stemming from drivers failing to look properly.

While the council hopes reducing the speed limit to 30kmh will reduce the crash rate, the data shows only 101 crashes were caused by speed, and only 16 of those involved vehicles going too fast. The rest involved drivers misjudging the speed they or others were travelling at.

The Automobile Association has opposed the 30kmh speed limit, arguing the lack of cars travelling above that speed makes changing the limit pointless.

Instead, the council should be looking at solutions such as red light cameras and pedestrian safety campaigns, to tackle problems such as inattention and red-light running, AA Wellington chairman Michael Gross says. "The intensity of the accidents would change but the numbers most likely wouldn't change . . . other factors would be more beneficial to lessening the accidents or injuries."

A potential spinoff of slower speeds was more pedestrian accidents, with walkers lulled into a sense of security by slower-moving cars. "They're more inclined, possibly, to take a greater risk."

The council's safe and sustainable transport manager, Paul Barker, says reducing the speed limit will have an overall benefit, regardless of how many cars are crashing at high speeds now.

If cars were moving slower, it would reduce crashes in which drivers were trying to park or merge as well as the severity of crashes, he said.

"You can't look at the details in the crashes without thinking about the way the city might work quite differently under the lower speed limit."

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Foster, who chairs the council's transport and urban development committee, said the speed limit was part of a multi-pronged approach to dealing with accidents in the CBD and reducing the impact when crashes did happen.

"Obviously a lower speed limit helps, because it gives you more time to see things, more time to react."

That included changing light-phasing to better accommodate pedestrians and discourage jaywalking, as well as launching the $100,000 safety campaign after Anzac Day. A subcommittee will discuss the speed limit next month before giving its recommendations to the transport and urban development committee to consider.

BY THE NUMBERS

Reported crashes in Wellington's CBD from 2009-2013:

648 - crashes in total

250 - involved drivers not looking properly

101 - involved speed

99 - involved pedestrians

80 - listed pedestrian fault as a factor

38 - involved cyclists

- The Dominion Post

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