How to Handle the 7 Types of Vulnerable Road Users

More help for you

Hazards on the UK’s roads can crop up in the most unexpected of places.

And when you’re travelling in residential areas, it’s possible you’ll encounter road users who are vulnerable, need to take their time, and may be unaware of the Highway Code.

In this article, we’re going to give you some clues on the warning signs to look out for from types of vulnerable road users defined by the DVSA -- and provide top tips on how to keep everyone safe.

7 Types of Vulnerable Road Users

  1. 1


    By and large, most people will be able to use a pavement that’s separate from the flow of traffic, and won’t pose much risk for you as a driver. But of course, there are always exceptions.

    For example, many rural roads in the countryside do not have pavements -- and pedestrians may have no choice but to walk in the road. Traffic signs may be provided to alert you to this potential hazard, but this may not always be the case.

    Side roads can also be a challenge. Remember that pedestrians have priority when you are turning off from a main road, and you may need to allow them a bit of time so they can complete their crossing.

    You should also be fully aware of the types of crossings on main roads which are designed for pedestrians, and how they work. You should reduce your speed and get ready to stop if someone is waiting at a zebra crossing. At pelican crossings, traffic lights will act as your guide -- but official guidance from the DVSA advises against you rushing pedestrians who are still walking across the road when the lights have turned green. Toucan crossings mean that cyclists can cross at the same time as pedestrians, bringing us nicely along to our next topic. The following video will help you learn more about different types of crossings.

  2. 2


    Cyclists are more vulnerable on roads because they can be harder to see in good time, and they travel at slower speeds than drivers.

    The main way to prevent accidents is to give them plenty of room -- and leave as much space as you would for a car. That’s because cyclists may need to swerve suddenly, perhaps because of an uneven road surface or drain that lies ahead. Sometimes, their sudden change of course will be out of their control, and examples of this can include a gust of wind.

    Particular times when you should be careful overtaking cyclists include roundabouts and junctions. Some traffic lights provide an advanced stop line which enable cyclists to get a head start of a few feet on motorists. Here is a short example of safe overtaking:

  3. 3


    Some of the tips for travelling alongside cyclists also apply to motorcyclists. You should also bear in mind that motorcyclists may weave between lanes and pass by quite closely. It’s always worth performing several checks for them prior to turning right, and giving them plenty of space if you’re unsure of what a motorcyclist ahead of you is intending to do.

    In the unfortunate event you’re in a collision with a motorcyclist, call 999 and do not attempt to take off their helmet unless you absolutely have to.

  4. 4


    This section particularly applies when you’re driving in residential areas where children might be playing outside, and when you’re travelling near schools. Children are far less likely to follow the Highway Code when they are crossing a road, and it’s vital for you to remain vigilant.

    children crossing the road
    Remember that kids turn to make unpredictable instant decisions

    Outside schools, lollipop men and women may be used at the start and end of the school day to help children and their carers cross safely. They will bring traffic to a halt by coming into the middle of the road and holding up a stop sign. Many councils are introducing traffic calming measures and 20mph speed limits around schools.

    You will find that parking directly outside a school may be difficult, with motorists prohibited from leaving their cars in areas marked by zig-zag lines. This is to ensure that pedestrians have a clear view of the road before crossing.

    Finally, exercise caution if you’re directly behind a school bus or another vehicle carrying children.

  5. 5

    Pensioners and Disabled Pedestrians

    You should always be patient when pensioners or disabled pedestrians are preparing to cross the road. It’s also wise to take extra care if you encounter people who are visually impaired or have hearing difficulties, as they may misjudge appropriate times to cross the road and may not be aware you’re approaching.

  6. 6


    You should always go very slowly if horse riders are using the road, not least because sudden movements and loud speeds can startle them and put you and others in harm’s way. If you’re preparing to overtake, leave plenty of room. The following real life video will help you understand why the Highway Code asks you to pass horses wide and slow.

  7. 7

    Other Drivers

    Lastly, let’s not forget your fellow motorists. Both inexperienced and older drivers may travel at slower speeds and have delayed reaction speeds. If you see a driver in a learner car -- denoted by an L sign -- make sure you allow plenty of space as they may be susceptible to making mistakes and braking suddenly.

Questions about handling vulnerable road users are common in theory tests.

Make sure you’re prepared for all eventualities by taking a mock test at TopTests.co.uk.

93% of people found this article helpful.
Click a star to add your vote
12 votes - average 4.67 out of 5
93% of people told us that this article helped them.

How good of a driver are you?

An expert behind the wheel or danger to the road?

Take a free quiz