More than 100 adults and schoolchildren learnt at first hand about the dangers of cycling or walking too close to large vehicles during a Sutton Police road safety initiative in Sutton High Street recently.
A large police vehicle - a nine-tonne arctic tractor - was taken into the High Street to demonstrate just how much the driver's vision is restricted when cyclists ride up beside the vehicle or pedestrians try to cross the road in front of it.
A group of 60 Year 4 children from Muschamp Primary School in Carshalton received a road safety briefing from PCs Darren Green and Gavin Stubbington.
The children were asked to stand in the blind spots while their teachers sat in the cab and scanned each of the vehicle's six mirrors. At one point, 15 pupils stood in front of the vehicle and none of them could be seen from the driver’s seat.
Sutton's Mayor Muhammad Sadiq also sat in the cab to discover how limited the driver’s view can be. He said: "I discovered very clearly that you must not get too close to these vehicles. A driver cannot look in all the mirrors at the same time. I was impressed by this initiative which was about educating people and saving lives," he said.
Chief Inspector Duncan McMillan said: "The Met's arctic tractor has six mirrors and complies with EU safety regulations. In spite of this you have to be two or three cycle lengths in front of the cab before you can be seen by the driver. Also, there is very limited vision for the driver to see anyone along the side of the vehicle. I hope people see from this how difficult this issue is and how awareness is key. This is a very important message for all members of the public to understand not to get to close to large lorries on our busy roads.”
The Met's Roads and Transport Policing Command uses the arctic tractor vehicle at venues across London to highlight the dangers of cycling or crossing the road near heavy lorries. Over the past five years, more than 18,000 people - many of them cyclists - have benefited from advice from specialist traffic police officers.
Cllr Ruth Dombey, Lib Dem Leader of Sutton Council and Chair of the Safer Sutton Partnership Board, said: "Road safety in Sutton is in everyone's interest, whether you are a driver, a cyclist or a pedestrian. While we are rightly proud of the borough’s road safety record, we cannot afford to be complacent.
“Everyone needs to be more vigilant of what is going on around us when travelling in a car, van or lorry, on two wheels or walking on foot. A momentary lapse in concentration can have a lifetime's impact. We must continue to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities on our roads and awareness-raising days like today will help us to do so."
The Road Safety Awareness Day was organised by the Safer Sutton Partnership Service (SSPS) - a joint team of police officers and council staff who manage the borough's community safety services. It was held with the support of the Met's Roads and Transport Policing Command, Sutton Council, Sutton Town Centre Management, Sutton BID and Neighbourhood Watch.
Also on show during the day were vehicles from the Met Police's vintage vehicle fleet - an Austin 1100 and Morris Minor Panda cars, a Rover 827 and a Land Rover - all in Met Police livery.