How many of us rely heavily on our cars? For the commute to work….for dropping the kids off at school…for visiting the supermarket….the list goes on and on. As a nation, the UK is obsessed with vehicular transportation. We love our cars and although many people use other modes of transport for a variety of reasons (greener travel, fitness, cost etc.), latest data from Statista (the statistics portal) states that in 2015 there will be an estimated 31.4 million cars on British roads.

That’s a lot of cars! Plus, it is only scratching the surface as the data excludes buses, HGVs, motorbikes, taxis – all vying for space on the already jam-packed roads and motorways.

Reducing road accidents by changing the way we drive

RoadPeace – the national charity set up to support victims of road crashes reports that every day, 5 people sadly die on the roads in the UK and 3,900 people die worldwide. Not only are these statistics shocking, but 1 in 75 of us will be bereaved through a road crash. It is therefore clear that our roads are not a safe place to be.

Whilst we accept that car usage is often a necessity, we must look for ways to minimise the risk from road crashes and the devastation that they cause.  Road danger reduction should be actively encouraged both at a local and national level, with specific emphasis and publicity surrounding the issue.

We have taken an in-depth look at what factors are crucial in road traffic accidents and fatalities and give our thoughts on steps that could be taken to reduce their danger:

Mobile phones

Overwhelmingly, we believe that using a mobile phone behind the wheel is one of the biggest causes of death and serious injury on the roads today. The use of handheld mobile phones whilst driving, was first made illegal in the winter of 2003. However, in the year to 2013, 10 years after the ban, fatal crashes in which mobile phones played a part was recorded as 22 – and this doesn’t even take into account the number who were injured as a result of the driver using a mobile phone.

What’s the danger?

Distraction! Many studies have been carried out to determine how a driver’s perception of what is going on around them and their reaction times alter when they are using a mobile phone. This also includes using hands-free kits to take calls. It is estimated that a driver remains distracted by their call up to 10 minutes after it ends.

What can I do?

Don’t pick up the phone! In fact, whilst you’re driving, switch your phone to silent so that you are not distracted by it ringing. If you are facing a long journey, plan some stops into your journey in order to check for messages – this is much safer than picking up your phone on the road, even to answer or make a hands-free call.

It goes without saying that you must NEVER read or reply to text messages whilst driving. Looking down at your phone to read or reply to a message might only distract you for a second, but that second is enough for a pedestrian to step out in front of you, or for the vehicle in front to apply an emergency stop.

Speed

Are you really in such a rush that a few extra minutes are more valuable than someone’s life? We didn’t think so!

National Speed Limits are imposed for a reason; to assist with safety and prevent even more accidents occurring. According to Think! – The Government’s dedicated road safety site, 3,064 people were killed or seriously injured in crashes in 2013 where speed was a factor. Not only that, but a pedestrian is 4 times more likely to die if they are hit at 40mph than if they were struck at 30mph.

What’s the danger?

Increased speed means increased stopping distances. Even if you spot a hazard, you are less likely to be able to stop safely when travelling at speed.

Not only that, but your ability to safely manoeuvre your car decreases when more speed is involved. Bends are more difficult to negotiate when you are travelling at speed and you are more likely to lose control of your vehicle if you try to take bends at speed.

What can I do?

Remember, the speed limit is a LIMIT, not a target! Just because the speed limit is 30mph, it does not mean that you should always drive at this speed. Road conditions, including weather and the weight of traffic, play an important part in assessing what is a safe driving speed, so adjust your driving style accordingly.

Don’t rush – even in an emergency. We have all been in a situation where we need to get somewhere quickly, but worry can be an added distraction and it can be easy to think faster driving is needed. It isn’t. A few more minutes on your journey make it much more likely that you will arrive safely and that no one else pays the price for your haste.

Large vehicles

In order to keep the British economy moving, many businesses rely on the use of large vehicles to transport goods and materials up and down the country or to transport large number of passengers. But drivers, cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians all need to keep in mind that large vehicles have blind spots; positions on the road where the driver is unable to see you due to the sheer bulk of their vehicle.

According to the ‘See me Save me’ campaign by RoadPeace, heavy goods vehicles are responsible for a disproportionate number of deaths on our roads in the UK. Although HGVs account for only 5% of British traffic, they are responsible for 23% of fatal collisions involving cyclists.

What’s the danger?

Size and weight of vehicle, lack of manoeuvrability, blind spots and more. There is a fairly long list of potential dangers with larger vehicles such as HGVs, coaches and trucks.

What can I do?

We all have a duty of care to one another when using the road. We need large vehicles in order to keep businesses running, but as a fellow road user we should do everything we can to avoid a collision with larger vehicles who are not able to see us so easily.

Be aware of where a lorry’s blind spots are. Particular danger areas are the front left of the vehicle and down the inside. Also remember that if you are driving and you can’t see a lorry’s mirrors, the driver will not be able to see that you are behind them either.

Take extra care when attempting to overtake long vehicles. Only attempt to manoeuvre around a lorry if you can see for a significant distance ahead so that you can avoid oncoming traffic.

Drink/drug driving

In today’s modern world it is shocking that we still feel the need to advise people NOT to drink or take drugs when they are going to be driving. According to the Department for Transport, in 2012 there were still 230 deaths due to drink driving – accounting for 13% of all road fatalities.

It’s not just alcohol that causes a large number of road accidents, there are many drugs, both medical and illegal that have very significant, negatives effects on driving ability. Brake, the national road safety charity, has reported on official government statistics, which state that impairment by illegal or medical drugs was noted as a contributory factor in at least 31 road deaths in Britain during 2013.

What’s the danger?

Drugs and alcohol can seriously affect a person’s ability to think clearly and significantly slow their reaction times. Drugs affect people in many different ways, they can make you feel hyper alert, increasing your risk taking, or make you feel groggy and sleepy. You may also have problems with perception, hallucinations and seeing colours differently.

Remember that with alcohol, your ability to ‘handle’ it will have a lot of variant factors including weight, age and general fitness. Also, you can still be over the limit the morning after a heavy night drinking. Regardless of what you might have been told, only time can get rid of the alcohol in your system, not a bacon butty and several cups of coffee!

What can I do?

Put simply, avoid all alcohol and drugs if you know you will need to drive in the near future, including in the next day. A clear head is a must if you are going to get behind the wheel and there are enough obstacles on the road without you adding your own barriers which may prove lethal.

 

Ultimately, roads are dangerous and filled with hazards, but if observed correctly, current safety measures greatly minimise the risk of collisions. We are all vulnerable, with some road users more so than others, and therefore we need to do everything we can to make sure we are not the cause of an accident. It’s not just the risk of physical injuries we could cause ourselves, but injuries and potentially fatal injuries to other people. Nothing is worth the risk of another life.

At Freeclaim Solicitors we have over 30 years’ experience helping people after a serious road accident. If you are unlucky enough to be involved in an accident which wasn’t your fault, we can help you to claim the compensation you need to help get your life back on track. Our sympathetic and expert solicitors will guide you every step of the way to make sure you get the compensation and justice you deserve.

For no obligation, and free legal advice, call today on 0800 612 7340 or fill in an online enquiry form and one of our team will call you back.