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Vulnerable Road Users

Vulnerable Road Users

Who is a vulnerable road user?

Vulnerable road users (VRUs) are typically thought of as pedestrians, pedal cyclists, and motorcyclists, but how they are defined is more diverse.

The term ‘vulnerable road user’ generally means people who have less protection in crashes than people inside a vehicle. VRUs can also include other road users, such as those with special needs, users with frailty, a disability or reduced mobility and orientation.

Regardless of how these road users are defined or understood, the goal of ensuring safe journeys for VRUs has not always been prioritised over the needs of vehicle occupants.

Why are vulnerable road users at risk?

VRUs are most at risk in traffic and are the “weak party” in a crash. This is because they are either not protected by external shields or protective devices that absorb energy in a crash, or they are more vulnerable to injury from a crash.

The World Health Organisation recognises that VRUs disproportionately suffer the burden of road deaths and injuries, accounting for over half of global annual traffic fatalities, or around 1.2 million people.

In Australia, of the 1,179 people killed in road crashes in the twelve months to June 2022,12% were pedestrians, (146), 19% were motorcycle riders (223) and 3% were cyclists (36). Little is known about other types of VRUs.

What more can be done?

The Australian Automobile Association (AAA) Road Safety Research Program’s next round of research will focus on vulnerable road users, with a view to better understand the road safety issues around them.

Given the diversity of VRUs, the AAA is engaging with a broad range of groups to identify all the problems to solve, and any gaps in research.

The AAA Road Safety Research Program has invested $3.4 million into key road safety research projects. The AAA supports the development of innovative research and effective translation activities that help to address road safety in Australia for our vulnerable road users.