How to Identify and Adapt to Vulnerable Road Users: Part 1

How to Identify and Adapt to Vulnerable Road Users

When you’re driving, it’s important to be aware of all the different types of road users that you might encounter. In this two-part series, we’ll discuss some of the most vulnerable road users and how you can adapt your driving to safely share the road with them. In this first part, we’ll focus on pedestrians and motorcyclists.

What is a vulnerable road user?

Vulnerable road users (VRUs) are defined as “people on the road who are more likely to be killed or seriously injured than car occupants in a collision, due to their intrinsic vulnerability and the fact that they have less protection from injury.”

This includes pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, scooter riders, horse riders people using wheelchairs or other mobility devices, children, and older adults.

Why are VRUs more vulnerable?

There are several reasons why VRUs are more vulnerable than people in cars. First, they have less protection from the impact of a collision. They’re also harder for drivers to see, and they’re more likely to be involved in single-vehicle collisions (since they’re not surrounded by s shell of metal and glass)

What can we do to protect VRUs?

Fortunately, there are a few things we can do to help protect VRUs. One is to be more aware of them when we’re driving. This means scanning the road for pedestrians, bicyclists, and other potential hazards as well as taking particular car pedestrians and motorcyclists.


Let’s start with pedestrians. They’re the most vulnerable road users, and they’re also the most common. In 2016, pedestrian fatalities accounted for almost one-fifth of all traffic fatalities in the United States

There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to pedestrians:

  • First, they can be unpredictable. A pedestrian may step out into the road without looking, which can lead to a collision.
  • Second, they’re often unaware of their surroundings. They may not hear or see you coming, which can also lead to a collision.
  • Third, they don’t always have time to get out of the way. If you’re driving too fast and there’s a pedestrian in your path, there’s a good chance that person will get hit.

Tips for how to drive safely around pedestrians

  • Slow down. This gives you more time to react if someone does step into the road.
  • Be extra cautious at night and in bad weather. Pedestrians are harder to see in these conditions.
  • Yield to pedestrians who are crossing the street, even if they’re not at a crosswalk.
  • Watch for pedestrians who may be about to cross. They may start to step into the road without looking first.
  • Be patient. It takes pedestrians longer to cross the street than it does for you to drive past them.

By following these tips, you can help make sure that everyone gets where they’re going safely.


Motorcyclists are also vulnerable road users. In fact, they account for more fatalities than bicyclists despite making up just 0.59 percent of all traffic trips

There are several things to keep in mind when it comes to motorcyclists:

  • First – they’re small. This means they can be easily missed, especially if they’re in your blind spot.
  • Second – they accelerate quickly. This means that if you’re not paying attention, you may not see them until it’s too late.
  • Third – they don’t always follow the rules of the road. This means that they may not signal when they’re turning or stopping, which can lead to a collision.

Tips for how to drive safely around motorcyclists

  • Always use your turn signals when turning or changing lanes – even if you think the motorcyclist knows what you’re doing.
  • Check your blind spots before merging or making a turn.
  • Slow down and give them plenty of room to pass, especially if they’re going faster than you are.
  • If you’re driving in a group, try to keep the motorcyclists in your sight at all times.

Motorcyclists are vulnerable road users for several reasons. They’re not as visible as other vehicles, they can be difficult to see in bad weather conditions, and they don’t have the same level of protection in a collision.

By following these tips, you can help keep motorcyclists safe on the road. Be sure to look out for them, and share the road!

Keeping vulnerable road users, and yourself, safe

It’s important to remember that we share the road with everyone, no matter what type of vehicle they’re driving. We all have a responsibility to look out for each other and practice safe driving habits.

By following these tips, you can help keep vulnerable road users safe on the road. In turn, this will help keep everyone safe.

Part two of a guide to identifying and adapting to vulnerable road users will be published soon. Stay tuned!

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Written by:
Rich Heinrich
Master Instructor / General Manager

Instructor and Office Administrator

Frankie works and karaoke's in Las Vegas but his out-of-doors-heart is still out East. Born in Boston, Frankie loves the snow and mountains. As an avid snowboarder, Frankie has never seen a snow day he didn't LOVE! A graduate from…Read More