Driver calls for harsher fines for pedestrians

Adam PoulsenGeraldton Guardian

A retired firefighter with 30 years’ experience attending traffic accidents is calling for tougher penalties for careless pedestrians who flout the road rules, after he barely avoided mowing a man down in Geraldton.

Peter Stratford said he was driving south on Chapman Road with his wife, approaching the traffic lights at the intersection of Bayly Street, when the near miss happened.

“There was a bus in front of us turning right, but he had a red arrow, so he was stopped at the lights,” Mr Stratford explained.

“I had a green light to go straight, and as I got close to the front of the bus a guy just ran out past the bus and on to the road.

“I slammed on the brakes and steered to the left, and I only missed him by millimetres — I thought my missus was gonna have a seizure it was so close. My Landcruiser would have squashed him flat if he’d ran past half a second later.”

Mid West-Gascoyne District Traffic Police Senior Constable Keith Burrows said pedestrians could be punished for disobeying traffic signals.

“In this case he would probably be looking at a $50 fine for crossing the road contrary to a red light, but if someone drives through or rides a bicycle through, it’s a $300 fine,” he said.

“Obviously stepping out in front of a bus isn’t a smart thing to do because you’re invisible up until the last second.”

But Mr Stratford said the fine should be increased or preventative measures should be put in place to avoid potential accidents.

“In Nowra (NSW) they had similar problems and there were a few fatalities, so the council put a fence along the middle of the highway through town so that pedestrians had to cross at the lights,” he said.

Mr Stratford, who moved to Geraldton in 2004, said he had attended too many similar situations that had resulted in tragedy during his 30 years as a NSW firefighter.

“Some of them were minor, some were major, and some people died because of their injuries,” he said.

“But a lot of the time you do feel sorry for the driver, because often they’re just minding their own business and doing the right thing. I could have killed him and I would have had to wear that for the rest of my life, and my wife would have had to see it all too.”

Sen. Const. Burrows said even pedestrians who did obeythe rules should be aware of their surroundings and never blindly trust motorists to do the right thing.

“It comes down to education and for the individual to pay sufficient attention to what they’re doing at the time to make sure they preserve their life,” he said.

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