Crossing the Road – With Tufty and Darth Vader

One of the things I intended to do when I started this blog was to use it to highlight some of my fears for Dani growing up.

Well crossing the road is a very big fear of mine in Spain. You would think that it should be for anyone else – but you see it isn’t. The Spanish penchant for taking risks is never more evident that when crossing the road.

Why do you see so many people in Spain stepping out to cross the roads – admittedly at zebra crossings – without checking that the traffic has stopped.

It is worse these days with so many people completely engrossed on their mobile phones and worse still with earphones in listening to music.

They seem to consider it an extension of the pavement. It isn’t. And despite any arguments that the driver’s responsibility to stop the onus should always be on the pedestrian to put their own life first. It is really common sense. In a collision between a car and pedestrian which comes out worst? It’s obvious right? Not only that but it is always the case.

The Stats Surprise….

I really thought I had a great blog post idea with this one. Following on from a previous post about Spanish Driving (which you can see here) this was going to be a story about Spanish safety – or lack of it. Poking fun at how the Spanish have a complete disregard for road safety. Or so I thought… Then I did some quick research into the statistics and the results were surprising.

For example, according the “EuroTest Pedestrian crossing survey” (January 2008) the rate of pedestrian fatalities at crossings is almost the same: 1.3 per million people for Spain compared to 1.2 per million in the UK. However, the ratio of fatalities at pedestrian crossings compared to the overall pedestrian fatalities is higher for the UK (2.2% compared to 1.3%).

In other words even though there are less pedestrian fatalities overall in the UK, there is a greater likelihood of one of those poor pedestrians being killed at a crossing. Wow! Confusing and crazy statistics.

Excuses, Excuses…

“Hahaa you were wrong! It is worse in the UK” I hear you Spanish readers laughing. So it seems. At least specifically (and in certain statistical terms) at pedestrian crossings. But I have to at least try and make some excuses as to how the statistics for the UK appear worse than those for Spain. Firstly let me explain that Spain has more fatal road crashes not involving pedestrians. Many of the drivers involved in such accidents have their crashes out on the open road where there aren’t really any pedestrians.

Another difference is that in the UK you are far more likely to have a pedestrian crossing on a main road. In Spain – certainly in Madrid – there are huge numbers of crossings in lesser roads and even backstreets where most cars are not moving fast enough to kill you. So even if there are collisions involving pedestrians they should not be fatal.

Just a minor bump…

I know as much from experience (in the UK). I was once knocked over by a car slowly turning a corner. It was going fast enough to lift me onto the bonnet. I did a Starsky and Hutch style bonnet roll then landed on the road. Both the initial impact and the fall onto the road hurt; but nothing serious.

Getting figures on the number of non-fatal incidents is another story and proved impossible (in the hour or so I allotted to the task)….There is some data on non-fatal traffic incidents in general but not specific to pedestrian crossings. Probably such cases are less likely to be recorded or not even reported. Mine was not for example.

Surely the non-fatal figures will be much higher in Spain? If anyone has the time to find such data please let me know. Otherwise it’s a big slice of humble pie for me.

Forget the law, just use common sense…

In Spain (and probably in most countries) the law is on the side of the pedestrian, i.e. they have right of way. Many in Spain take the right of way thing too literally. The just step out onto a zebra often without even looking.

But think about it. Why would you step out onto a road expecting the car driver of an oncoming vehicle to stop just because the law says they should. Wouldn’t you think it better to wait and make sure they have actually seen you? That they have actually stopped first? Of course some do just that; but many, many do not.

And besides what good is that rule of law if you are six feet under nailed inside a wooden box?

It’s beyond crazy. It is incredible that there are not far more accidents – fatal ones. Are the Spanish just lucky or are the figures being buried (excuse the phrasing, no pun intended)? Who knows? Not me for sure.

Back in the day…

So on to my advice for my son. I will be teaching him to cross the road safely whichever country   he is in. Wait until you are sure the oncoming traffic has actually stopped before putting a foot on the road. Always! Not unlike the advice we were given. Not only by our parents but also by the authorities.

When I was a kid the TV used to show the Tufty the squirrel adverts – well they called them public information films actually. See these all the Tufty the squirrel short films here:

Poor Willie Weasel eh? I am willing to bet that he went on to a career as a stuntman.

A year or so later came the Green Cross Code man played by the actor David Prowse. He went on to play Darth Vader in the Star Wars movies. It just so happened that his voice was not at all scary enough so James Earl Ray voiced the evil lord Vader. Judge for yourselves by watching the videos.

Hilarious eh? Notice how few cars there are. That was the mid-70s.  Incredibly in those days we used to play ball games in the road and take turns watching out for traffic. A cry of “Bus!” or “Car!” stopped play, but only for a few seconds.

Those days are long gone of course. Roads everywhere are full of traffic now and crossing the road is more of a danger. Yet somehow such public safety films no longer appear on the TV. Why is that? Is it because most people do not let their kids out unsupervised anymore?

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