The Observatory

Watch out, cane about!

Dr Graeme White

On International White Cane Day, 15 October, the Guide Dogs organisations across Australia launched a national road safety awareness campaign called ‘Watch out, cane about’ aimed at making it safer for pedestrians with impaired vision to cross the road.

The campaign was driven by worrying new figures showing 1 in 2 Australians who are blind or vision impaired have had a near miss with a vehicle over the past five years while trying to cross the road. The figures also revealed 1 in 15 have actually been struck by a vehicle.

Crossing the road can be treacherous for anyone, but imagine what it’s like if you can’t see. All drivers need to be aware of the high level of near misses and accidents pedestrians with vision loss are experiencing.

While we train clients on how to cross roads safely, we’re calling on motorists to be more aware of the safety of pedestrians who are blind or vision impaired.

Interestingly, clients reported most incidents occur with cars not stopping or giving way at marked pedestrian crossings. Other common incidents experienced when crossing roads were drivers flashing lights, honking horns, shouting instructions and even getting out of the car to physically assist.

The best ways to help are to abide by the road rules, while exercising extra caution and allowing more time. You should never assume a pedestrian has full vision to assist in their decision making and will stop if you decide not to.

Watch out Cane About

Campaign poster courtesy of Guide Dogs

To catch motorists’ attention, the campaign features a Beatles ‘Abbey Road’ inspired image of four people with white canes on a pedestrian crossing. TV and radio advertisements and a video highlighting ‘Dos & Don’ts’ tips for motorists were also launched, which can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/user/GuideDogsNSWACT

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About the Author

Dr Graeme White

Chief Executive Officer, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT; Director, Vision2020 Australia; Director, the Centre for Eye Health; Director & Treasurer, Australian & New Zealand Assistance Dog Association. Previously, Chief Executive Officer, Guide Dogs Victoria (2005-2011) and Director & Deputy Chair of the International Guide Dog Federation (2006-2010). Prior to Guide Dogs Victoria, Graeme spent 30 years in the Australian pharmaceutical, healthcare and optical Industries in marketing, general management and chief executive roles. He has worked at the multinational companies Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, Baxter Healthcare, Smith & Nephew, Sigma Pharmaceutical Wholesale and Ocular Sciences, managing businesses ranging from $5 million to $1.2 billion in size. Read more by this author →

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