Most of us know the statistics:
- Almost 1.3 million people lose their lives due to road accidents every year (that comes to about 3,300 road crash deaths each year).
- Another 20 to 50 million people sustain injuries or disabilities due to different road accidents each year.
- It is predicted that by 2030, road accidents will be in the top five leading causes of deaths in the world.
What many do not see, however, is that almost half of these deaths and injuries befall young people of about 15–44 years of age. Yes, many teens die behind the wheel.
Another disturbing statistic is that almost every single one of these accidents is caused by driver negligence or risk-taking behavior. Now, we all know that no one wakes up in the morning and decides to cause a road accident.
But when you text and drive, drink and drive, remain distracted when driving, use a vehicle that is not well serviced, demonstrate risk-taking behavior by showing off or using your cell phone, or show aggressive behavior known as “road rage” with no regard for traffic safety, there is a good chance that you will end up in a car accident and as one of the numbers making up these grim stats.
How To Prevent Road Accidents
The law of averages states that with all the vehicles on the road and the fact that we drive each day, it is almost inevitable that you will have an accident at one time or another.
Although that might sound scary, the truth is that most day-to-day accidents are neither dangerous nor fatal. A fender bender here and there and maybe a little missing of the curb; these are the kinds of accidents that most drivers suffer.
However, we all know that numbers do not lie and the fact of the matter is that fatal car accidents on the road are occurring each day. So, what can we do to ensure that we do not join the long list of the injured, disabled, or fatally-wounded driver on the road?
Factors Causing Risky Behavior Behind the Wheel
The following video gives you a quick rundown of some of the reasons why road accidents occur:
As you can clearly see, many—if not all—these reasons can be avoided if the driver chooses to be responsible while behind the wheel. Let us highlight some of these reasons and show you how you can become a better and safer driver every day you get behind the wheel. This is especially important for inexperienced teen drivers and young adults.
This is something that has been preached over and over. Local governments have even legislated it and made it illegal to past a certain speed limit in different zones.
The idea is to try and keep people below the legal and safe limit while driving. The problem is that most people like the kind of thrill that speed brings into their lives. These very people also tend to overestimate the level of control they have on a speeding car.
As much as you may think your reaction time is almost superhuman, the truth is that you cannot react fast enough when you are going at 120 mph and coming round a bend.
Forget what you see on TV or in movies such as ‘Fast and Furious’. Some of those things cannot be replicated in real life and neither should you try. Keeping your vehicle within a comfortable and legal speed limit will minimize the risk of accidents.
As much as there is an incredible amount of excitement that comes with street racing or drag racing, do not try these things unless you are a professional. Even then, you should only do it in a restricted zone with a car that is built for that sort of thing.
Driving Under the Influence
When most people hear about driving under the influence, they immediately think alcohol. While it is true that alcohol is by far one of the leading causes of impaired driving skills, there are other forms of narcotics that do not go well with driving. We are talking about things like:
- Sleeping pills
- Heavy-duty painkillers
You know, anything that gets you drowsy or kicks your adrenaline levels into high gear is a bad idea to use while behind the wheel. If the package says that you ‘should not operate heavy machinery’ while on the drug, then you should assume that you cannot drive while under that influence either. Here is what happens to you when you drive under the influence:
- Your reaction time is impaired
- You get an unrealistic level of confidence in your own skills as a driver
- You get easily distracted
- You get jumpy
You are basically not your normal self, no matter how ‘normal’ or ‘fine’ you feel. Either let the drugs wear off first, call a cab or just don’t take it and drive.
The Effects of Weather on Your Driving
Although this is technically not your fault, bad weather is yet another leading cause of road accidents today. Wet roads, black ice, limited visibility and high winds are all weather-related factors that do increase your risk of causing an accident.
When it comes to driving in bad weather, your best line of defense is your experience. Drivers who have been driving longer typically know what to do when they hit black ice than a teenager who just started driving and cannot identify the danger in which there during these conditions.
The trick, however, is to avoid driving altogether when the weather is not favorable. However, as circumstances sometimes force us to drive through a blizzard, the best you can do is:
- Get expert instructions and training for such situations well before you need it
- Drive at a slow pace
- Be clear headed when driving in such conditions
- Ensure your vehicle is properly kitted for such conditions (snow tires and all)
If you cannot avoid driving in bad weather, make sure that you are as prepared as you can be for the drive and keep all distractions to a minimum, if not at zero.
Driving While Tired and Drowsy
As an adult, there is a good chance that you have a very busy life; six out of seven days a week you struggle to fit 26 hours into a 24-hour day and fail miserably at it.
That doesn’t mean that you stop trying though. You keep pushing your body to the limit and load up on so much coffee that you do not realize just how tired you are at times.
In these kinds of conditions, you cannot realistically drive and be expected to be at the top of your game. This is especially true if you are driving for long distances where you have no distractions and long lulls on the road as you drive through miles of nothing.
This is when you find yourself nodding off and even falling asleep. If you ever find yourself nodding off while behind the wheel, pull over at the next rest stop and take a nap. That long haul is not worth your life. Even just a ten-minute nap is enough to get you refreshed and more focused on the road ahead.
Cell Phones and Texting
You would think that this would be common sense: do not text and drive. But you will be surprised just how many people talk on their phones while driving. When behind the wheel, you need to be on red alert for your reaction time to be up to par.
The trick is to be as attentive as possible while still relaxed enough to avoid the stress that comes with tension. None of these things can be achieved when you are texting your friends while driving. Those few seconds in which you take your eyes off the road are enough to get you distracted and in a higher risk of an accident.
By the time you look up and realize what is happening it will be too late to react in time. You might even end up flooring the gas pedal instead of pumping the brakes. Avoid using your phone when driving at all costs.
Everyone assumes that peer pressure only affects teenagers. The truth is that the term peer pressure means that anyone considered a peer can pressure you into making bad decisions.
It doesn’t matter if you are 15 or 60, as long as you have your peers whispering (more often than not shouting) instructions or jeers into your ear while driving, you will probably make a bad decision and cause an accident.
Don’t listen to the “go faster” or “my grandma drives faster than you” calls. Keep your cool and drive at a safe and legal speed even when they call you a fossil for it.
The problem and cause of most risky behavior behind the wheel is poor judgment on the driver’s part. Sometimes, however, it is due to the fact that you are operating an unroadworthy vehicle that is not safe in the first place.
If this is the case, then you should definitely get the car checked out by a qualified mechanic before ever taking it out on the road. As far as the other “driver-error” causes are concerned, the best you can do is learn to identify the risk factors and avoid them at all cost. Your life and that of others depend on it.