More than ever, absolute attention and consideration are required in road transport. The diversity in types of road users has increased in recent years. Currently, a new group of participants has been added in Germany with the E-Roller.
"Every road user is responsible for himself and other road users. It can be life-threatening to have your eyes on your mobile phone and not on the road while driving or crossing the road," says Prof. Dr. Paul Alfred Grützner, President of the German Society for Orthopaedics and Trauma Surgery (German acronym: DGOU), on the occasion of the release for Germany’s traffic accident statistics for 2018, which included 3,275 fatalities.
Among all new and old road users, there are many "smombies" (“smartphone zombies”) who are so distracted by the constant gaze on their smartphones that they hardly notice their surroundings. Moreover, the current transport infrastructure does not do justice to the new modal diversity on the roads.
There are always new means of transport in road traffic. In particular, the number of electric vehicles (e-mobiles) has increased sharply: These include pedelecs and e-bikes, but also e-buses and e-cars. Since June 2019, e-scooters have also been on the road on Germany's roads and cycle paths. With these, a fourth group of road users is created: 1. car, truck, bus; 2. bicycle, e-bike, pedelec; 3. pedestrian (incl. visually impaired), "smombies", etc.; and now: 4. e-scooters.
All-electric vehicles have one thing in common: they cannot be heard and must, therefore, be perceived by direct eye recognition. All in all, traffic is also getting faster: the electric scooters alone can reach speeds of up to 20 km/h. "The e-scooter drivers expand the circle of unprotected road users alongside pedestrians and cyclists. Accidents between these road users or collisions with cars, trucks or buses often have life-threatening consequences. The correct calculation of the new group of electrically powered means of transport must be given greater consideration in our infrastructure, but also in the attention of other road users," says Dr. Christopher Spering, Head of the DGOU Prevention Section and Senior Physician at the Clinic for Trauma Surgery, Orthopaedics and Plastic Surgery at the University Medical Center Göttingen (German acronym: UMG).
However, the rapid approach of e-mobiles is often underestimated by other road users. With the E-Scooter there is also the fact that a change of direction can neither be indicated by light signals nor by hand gestures: Both hands must be on the handlebars to balance. "Here, no road user can allow himself an inattentive second by paddling his mobile phone or dreaming - otherwise serious collisions are inevitable," says Spering. He reports on the new e-scooters: "In the emergency rooms, we can already see serious accidents in which pedestrians or even e-scooter drivers themselves are particularly affected and sometimes suffer such serious injuries that they have to be operated in an emergency service".
For safer traffic, traffic management would also need to be improved. Prevention expert Spering says: "As the opportunities for multi-modal mobility increase, the need for the infrastructure to evolve also increases." This includes a better separation of the four road user groups. For example, the cycle path network would have to be greatly expanded and cycle paths widened.
In addition to new concepts for urban planning, Spering strongly advocates for personal responsibility: "Expect the mistakes of others!". In the end, unprotected road users are the weakest: they always lose in the event of a collision.
Last but not least, orthopaedists and trauma surgeons warn against frivolous transport policy decisions affecting the true scope of road safety needs: A draft by German Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer currently provides for easier access to motorcycling. Grützner says: "The risk of a fatal accident or serious injury with a two-wheeler is about ten times higher than in a car. In contrast to the passenger car, there has been no significant decline in motorcycle accidents over the past 20 years. This should be taken into account when a legislator decides to simplify the standards for driving permits and accept cuts in the training of road users".