Vulnerable Road Users

With an increasing and ageing population, it’s not surprising that UK roads are becoming more congested. With all of us vying for road space, this puts increasing risks on vulnerable road users.

With this in mind, it’s essential that we can identify vulnerable road users, understand the characteristics of all vulnerable road users and act accordingly.

What is a Vulnerable Road User?

A vulnerable road user is typically defined by two categories – protection and capability. A road user is vulnerable due to a lack of protection. For example, unlike a car driver who is protected from impact by the vehicle shell and safety features, a cyclist will have very little in the way of impact protection.

A road user is also vulnerable due to capability. For example, a young child is unlikely to safely cross a road in the same way an adult would by taking all safety considerations into account.

Who Are Vulnerable Road Users?

Vulnerable road users are:


Drive with extra care in shopping and in residential areas. Pedestrians, especially children can walk into the road with little warning.

  • Over 60 child pedestrians are killed or seriously inured each week. Children can be unpredictable and difficult to see. Children are most vulnerable in residential areas, particularly around parked vehicles, schools and school crossings. Be cautious when reversing, for example into a side road. Children tend to misjudge the speed of vehicles and the intentions of drivers. Drive slowly and be particularly aware of young cyclists and pedestrians around schools.
  • Be patient with elderly pedestrians as they may require extra time to cross due to decreased mobility. Elderly pedestrians may also have hearing and seeing impairment and can be more vulnerable when crossing the road at junctions without the aid of a pedestrian crossing.
  • Pedestrians with disabilities. As a pedestrian, you may use your hearing to listen for approaching vehicles. Those with hearing impairments may not be aware of your vehicle approaching. Pedestrians with walking difficulties will require more time. Be extra cautious around partially sighted or blind people who might be carrying a white cane or using a guide dog as they may be unable to see you approaching. A deafblind person may be carrying a white cane with a red band and may be unable to see or hear traffic.

See driving and pedestrian safety for further information.

Road Signs that may Alert You to Vulnerable Pedestrians
School crossing patrol ahead sign
School crossing patrol ahead sign
Sign found on school buses to alert drivers of children
Sign found on school buses to alert drivers of children
Frail pedestrians likely to cross road ahead sign
Frail pedestrians likely to cross road ahead sign
Pedestrians may be walking in road
Pedestrians may be walking in road


  • Cyclists can be difficult to see, particularly when you’re emerging from a junction. Always take time to look for cyclists which can easily be obscured in blind spot areas such as the A-pillar.
  • Cyclists can be vulnerable when obscured from a drivers vision, for example a driver changing lanes may not be able to see a cyclists who is in their mirrors blind spot.
  • Give cyclists plenty of room whilst overtaking as they may wobble due to wind and may need to alter their course due to potholes.
  • When making a left turn in busy urban areas, check your left mirror before doing so to ensure a cyclist is not riding up the side of your vehicle.
  • Avoid overtaking a cyclists only to make a left turn shortly afterwards.
  • Take extra time to look for cyclists at night, particularly when emerging from a junction. A cyclists light can easily get lost among other night time lights.

See cyclists and cycle lanes for further information.

Cycle route ahead road sign
Cycle route ahead road sign
Cycle lane with flow of traffic ahead
Cycle lane with flow of traffic ahead

Motorcyclists and Moped Riders

  • Statistically, most motorcycle accidents occur at junctions where car drivers emerge and fail in taking enough time looking before pulling out, or misjudge a motorcycles speed.
  • It can also be difficult to see motorcycles when they’re overtaking you and filtering past in traffic.
  • Always be especially careful for motorcycles when changing direction such as a lane change and check mirrors and blind spots.
  • Motorcycles are more difficult to spot at night where their light is obscured by other vehicles lights. Be extra cautious when moving out of a junction.

See motorcycle safety for car drivers for further information.

Elderly, Disabled and Inexperienced Drivers

  • Make allowances for older drivers and disabled drivers as their reactions may be slower, or they may simply need more time than other drivers.
  • Learner drivers will often have little experience driving on public roads and may be unpredictable. Give learner drivers room and keep your distance especially at junctions where they may use the brakes excessively. By law, learner drivers must display L plates.
  • New, inexperienced drivers may not anticipate and respond to situations as quickly as other drivers, be mindful of this. A new driver may display green probationary ‘P plates‘ to inform other drivers that they are inexperienced full licence holders.
L plated displayed by learner drivers
L plated displayed by learner drivers
P plates possibly displayed by new drivers
P plates possibly displayed by new drivers


  • Pass horses or horse-drawn vehicles slowly and pass wide with plenty of room. Be particularly cautious around bends on country roads. Horse riders may sometimes ride in double file. This is to protect a novice rider (often a child) or nervous horse on the inside.
  • You should pass cattle or sheep very slowly and be prepared to stop. If a road is blocked by a herd of animals, stop and switch off your engine until they have left the road.
  • Do not scare animals by sounding your horn, revving your engine or accelerating rapidly once you have passed them.
Cattle road sign
Cattle (could be unfenced fields with cattle in road)
Horse riders ahead sign
Horse riders ahead sign

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