It’s unlikely anyone would argue the importance of driver and pedestrian safety, especially in populated areas. Governments go to a lot of trouble to ensure our safety on the road, and as pedestrians you’ve probably crossed a pedestrian crossing or two.
But have you noticed those signs that single out specific groups of people? The one you might notice applicable to the older generation is that of a hunched over couple with a walking stick or a walking frame. They look as though they’ve seen better days.
Are signs like this one really necessary?
Obviously, you want the car on the road to slow down in order that you might cross the road safely, but what other information is being imparted here that is of any value? Does it make a bit of difference whether you are a child, a teen, an older member of the community? One wouldn’t think so when it comes to speed and safety.
If a car were approaching a suburban area, common sense would be that the driver takes care and reduces his/her speed. These signs provide no more information than those ‘baby on board’ stickers, which are optimistically slapped onto cars by parents in the hope that other drivers will take greater care around their vehicle. You can hope that a driver will consider the age of the passenger however there is no guarantee that this will factor into anyone’s driving performance.
A year or so ago there was an article about the ‘elderly crossing’ sign highlighting the controversy they had caused in locations around the world, most notably in the United Kingdom.
Critics have long argued that such signs are unnecessary and that those who listen to music or text as they walk pose a greater hazard than more mature members of the community.
In 2014, Dr Ros Altmann — a pensions expert and campaigner — called for these signs to be banned.
“I think we do not need a sign to warn people of older people,” she said at the time. “It is redundant. I don’t think they are serving any useful purpose and they are damaging.”
Such signs are said to give off a message that because you are a bit older you are somehow frail and/or disabled, andin turn this could contribute to age discrimination that still exists in society.
It’s unlikely that you, as a member of a community of over-60s, see yourself, your friends and even some of your loved ones as old and infirm.
It seems then that a rethink in the way drivers are warned to slow down or perhaps pedestrians need to be wanred about whether walking is safe or not. The recent implementations of the ‘countdown’ footpaths have been successful and don’t discriminate whether you’re young or old… you just go! You may have seen them around your suburb, where they show an actual countdown to both cars and pedestrians of how much time they have to get to the other side.
While these are obviously not a full proof way to ensure road safety, technological advances in preventative measures may be the key that enables us as a society, and not signs that blatantly spread worn-out ideas. Over-60s are more active than ever and don’t need to be treated as if they are different or impaired — you’re living into our 90s and beyond and have plenty more life in us! Crossing the road is the least of your problems.