Wednesday, July 31, 2019

What Makes A Careful Driver?

Millions of people hit the roads to get to work every day. No matter where you live, there are always risks to bear in mind when you get behind the wheel of a car, van, or truck. Most of us would consider ourselves careful, safe drivers, but over 90% of accidents are caused by human error. Whether you’re an experienced driver or you’re relatively new to the road, it’s crucial to be aware of the risks posed by driving dangerously and to make an effort to steer clear of trouble. Here’s a useful guide to what makes a careful driver. 

Image source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-driving-car-on-freeway-1386648/
The most common causes of accidents on the road

Research suggests that most of us rate our driving skills highly. However, the statistics tell a different story. More than 90% of accidents are caused by mistakes. The most common causes of road traffic incidents include:

Speeding

Speeding is one of the most significant risk factors for fatal crashes. If you’re driving too fast, it’s much more difficult to maintain control of the vehicle, it’s more challenging to react quickly, and the impact is likely to be greater. Driving at speed increases the risk of life-changing and fatal injuries. You might think that speed restrictions take the fun out of driving, but they are there for a reason. The limit is set according to the type of road and the proximity to residential properties and community buildings like schools. According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents based in the UK, an increase of just 10mph from 40mph to 50mph can elevate the risk of life-threatening injuries by over 40%. 

When you’re driving, always pay attention to the road signs, and make sure you’re aware of the speed limit. If you’re going too fast, and you have a crash, you will probably be held liable for the accident, and you may face legal charges. Adjust your speed according to the weather conditions and the surface. If it’s foggy, it’s raining, or there’s ice or snow on the ground, reduce your speed. Your stopping distance will increase in wet weather, so you need to give yourself more time to slow down and brake. 

Driving fast can be fun, but you should always be wary of the fact that hazards can appear out of nowhere, and that you have a responsibility to protect other drivers, as well as yourself. If you are hurtling down the road, and an animal runs out, for example, you may not be able to react quickly enough, and this could put other road users in danger. Stick to the speed limits, and be prepared to modify your speed to minimize the risk of collisions. Even if a road has a speed limit of 70mph, it might not be safe to drive at this speed if visibility is poor, or the surface is slippery. 

Image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/chadelliott2012/5659144073
Distracted driving

We live in a world where we tend to try and do several things at once. We watch TV while scrolling through our phones and having conversations with our families. We take business calls while reading and sending emails. Multi-tasking is fine in certain environments, but it’s not a skill that should be exploited when driving. When you’re driving, your focus should be the road ahead, the vehicles around you, and any other hazards that could come into play. 

One of the most pressing concerns for drivers is that the landscape can change in a matter of seconds. One moment, you’re moving along without a care in the world, the next you’re having to slam the brakes on. Even in quiet areas, animals could run into the road, children could appear from behind parked cars and other drivers can make mistakes that require you to be able to react instantly. If you’re sending a text message or messing around with the navigation system, you might not be able to brake or steer your car away from a hazard in time. 

In some countries, it’s illegal to use your phone while driving, but in others, this isn’t the case. The best advice is to avoid doing anything that could potentially distract you from the road while you have the wheel in your hands. If you need to make a call, use an in-car, hands-free system or pull over in a safe place. Keep at least one hand on the wheel at all times and make sure you’re prepared to change gears, to brake quickly or to turn the steering wheel. Checking social media is much less important than staying safe. 

Picture credit: https://www.moody.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/210557/texting-talking-impacts-more-than-drivers-life/
Tiredness

If you’ve had a sleepless night, or you’re feeling drowsy and lethargic, it’s best to avoid driving or to take steps to wake yourself up and increase alertness. When you’re tired, your reaction time increases, and there’s also a risk of falling asleep at the wheel. This could have devastating consequences. If you have to make a journey, open the window to let fresh air in, listen to uplifting music, and have a caffeinated drink before you set off. If you’re already on your way, and you feel your eyes closing, and it’s impossible to stay awake, pull over in a safe place, park up and take a nap. It’s much better to delay your journey slightly and arrive in one piece than to run the risk of injuring yourself and others on the roads. 

If you are prone to feeling tired when you drive, try and steer clear of making trips at night, and drive when you feel most alert. If you have a long journey ahead, and you want to set off late to avoid peak traffic, have a sleep beforehand. 

Image via https://www.ellsworth.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/216142/airmen-guard-against-fatigued-driving/
Drunk driving

Drunk driving is one of the most common causes of fatal car accidents. Drinking alcohol has an array of negative effects on drivers. The problem is that often, drivers don’t realize these effects. Even if you feel fine after a few drinks, there’s every chance that drinking could put your life at risk. Drinking affects your reaction time, it can cause you to lose focus and concentration, and it can encourage you to take risks you would never even consider if you were stone-cold sober. You might try and overtake when there isn’t enough time or space, for example, or you may drive faster than usual. If you need to respond instantly, it might also take you too long to react, which could end up in a serious collision. It’s also worth noting that drink driving is illegal. If you cause an accident as a result of drinking too much, you will be held liable, which enables the other person to claim car accident compensation, and you’ll also be likely to face legal charges. Rules vary according to where you’re driving, but in most countries, drivers who are over the limit face fines, driving bans, and even prison sentences. 

If you do decide to go for an impromptu drink after work, or you’ve ended up having a couple more beers that you intended to, don’t risk getting behind the wheel. Organize a taxi or ask a friend who hasn’t been drinking to give you a lift home. 

Picture courtesy of https://pixabay.com/photos/drink-driving-drunk-alcohol-808790/
Careless driving

When you learn to drive, you’re required to take a test and swat up on the rules of the road. This might not be the most interesting or fun way to spend your time, but it’s critical to ensure you stay safe when you pass your test. Rules and laws are there to protect road users and pedestrians. If you’re driving too fast, you’re weaving in and out of traffic, you’re changing lane or overtaking without signaling or giving yourself enough time, or you’re aggravating other drivers, this kind of behavior will put you and others at risk. Take your time, be patient, and give other vehicles time and space. There should be a gap of two cars between you and the vehicle in front. If you’re too close, you might cause the other driver to become anxious, and you also run the risk of flying into them if they brake suddenly. Keep your distance, especially in adverse weather conditions. If you plan to change lanes, you’re overtaking, or you’re stopping, check your mirrors, signal, and then move. Always check your blind spot for cyclists and vehicles you might not have spotted. It’s also essential to make sure you look before turning into or out of a junction. Other drivers should not have to put their brakes on to accommodate you. 

Image taken from https://pxhere.com/en/photo/712092
Most of us assume that accidents happen to other people. The truth is that anyone can be involved in a car crash. The vast majority of incidents are caused by driver error, and every driver should be aware of the risks of taking to the road. Driving carefully is essential for your own safety, but also for the safety of other drivers and pedestrians. Next time you take the keys in your hand and fire up the ignition, think carefully about the decisions you make and pay attention to the rules of the road. 

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