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Motorists urged to watch out when there’s a cane about

15.10.2013

Guide Dogs Australia has revealed worrying new figures today showing 1 in 2 Australians who are blind or vision impaired have had a near miss with a vehicle over the past five years while trying to cross the road.

The figures also revealed 1 in 15 have actually been struck by a vehicle.

Launching its new national road safety awareness campaign Watch Out, Cane About today to mark International White Cane Day, Guide Dogs has joined forces with the Australian Automobile Association to help raise driver awareness of pedestrian safety.

"These are really worrying figures that every driver needs to be aware of," said James Williams, Chairman of Guide Dogs Australia.

"Any of these incidents can have potentially disastrous results. While Guide Dogs train clients on how to cross roads safely, we also need the support of Australian drivers to exercise caution and patience.

"Interestingly, most incidents reported by people with vision loss occur with cars not stopping or giving way at marked pedestrian crossings and intersections controlled by traffic signals.

"You should never assume a pedestrian has full vision to assist in their decision making and will stop if you decide not to."

To help raise driver awareness, Guide Dogs is today launching a TV community service announcement and an educational video highlighting 'Dos & Don'ts' tips for motorists.

Pedestrians who are blind or vision impaired also reported a range of other common incidents experienced when trying to cross the road including drivers flashing lights, honking horns, shouting instructions and even getting out of the car to physically assist.

The Australian Automobile Association Chief Executive Andrew McKellar congratulated Guide Dogs on its initiative saying it fits appropriately within the aims of the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety.

"We're supporting the call for road users to be more aware of pedestrian safety and to be conscious of the added risks for those who might be vision impaired," said Mr McKellar.

"We are concerned the road toll over the past few years hides a growing number of serious injuries for pedestrians, a particularly vulnerable road user group.

"This is an important reminder for motorists to be conscious of the risk for pedestrians near crossings and in other high activity areas such as shopping centres.

"It is also a reminder to ensure there is appropriate infrastructure in place to keep people safe such as good lighting, clear signage and road markings," Mr McKellar said.

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