Causes of Collisions and How to avoid them
There are a huge number of factors that can cause or contribute to road collisions, which is what makes it so difficult to eliminate them completely from our roads. However, if we identify the primary causes of collisions, we can set about addressing them in order to ensure that they do not lead to a catastrophe.
The good news is that, as we continue to gather data on collisions and their causes, we realise that many contributing factors are completely avoidable if we are responsible on our roads and are respectful toward other road users.
Some of the most dangerous driving practices are outlined below, along with suggestions on how to combat them.
Causes of Collisions
Speed is the single biggest factor contributing to road deaths in Ireland. Over 40% of collisions are caused by excessive or inappropriate speed, where excess speed is defined as ‘exceeding the speed limit’ and inappropriate speed is defined as ‘driving at a speed unsuitable for the prevailing road and traffic conditions.’
Many drivers believe that a small increase in speed makes little difference, but research shows otherwise. As your speed increases, your risk of losing control of your vehicle or becoming involved in a collision rises exponentially. Speeding endangers you and other road users and a 5km/h difference in speed could be the difference between life and death for a vulnerable road user such as a pedestrian:
- If hit by a car at 60km/h, 9 out of 10 pedestrians will be killed.
- If hit by a car at 50km/h, 5 out of 10 pedestrians will be killed.
- If hit by a car at 30km/h, 1 out of 10 pedestrians will be killed.
So, what can you do about the problem? There are many ways that you can tackle the issue of speeding on our roads and if each of us plays our part, the number of collisions can be kept to a minimum. Although at times it can seem like speed limits are an annoyance, they are there for your protection and abiding by them can save lives. For instance, if you are in a 60km/h zone and you are travelling at:
- 65 km/h, you are twice as likely to have a serious crash
- 70 km/h, you are four times as likely to have a serious crash
- 75 km/h, you are 10 times as likely to have a serious crash
- 80 km/h, you are 32 times as likely to have a serious crash.
These statistics are astounding and prove that showing a little respect for the rules of the road can go a long way toward making our county a safer place to live. In order to avoid feeling like you need to speed, you should ensure that you leave enough time for your journey and remain calm behind the wheel. Stress due to time pressure can cause us to make bad decisions and therefore it is important that you leave in good time and remember that the road does not belong to you but is shared by us all. Reduce speed in anticipation of corners and leave a safe stopping distance between you and the car in front. Always obey speed limits and only drive as fast as your ability and the road conditions allow.
Tiredness while driving is often overlooked when it comes to the discussion of serious dangers on the road. Research that has been carried out in recent years however, proves that driver fatigue is an incredibly serious issue. It is estimated that fatigue is a factor in as many as 1 in 5 driver deaths in Ireland annually. Furthermore, tiredness-related collisions are 3 times more likely to be fatal or result in serious injury because of the high-speed impact and lack of avoiding action.
A survey of drivers’ attitudes to fatigue conducted by the RSA in 2014 revealed that over 1 in 10 motorists have fallen asleep at the wheel.This number climbs to an astonishing 1 in 5 for motorists who drive as part of their work, as well as those who admit to driving after taking any amount of alcohol.
Although the figures are staggering, the bright side is that once we become aware of the issue, it becomes much easier to fight it. If you are feeling drowsy while behind the wheel, pull over safely, take a short 15-20 minute nap, and sip on a caffeinated drink such as coffee.This has been identified as a short-term way for drivers to recuperate for up to a further hour of driving. It should be noted that increasing the volume of the radio or opening windows to circulate air are not effective ways of combatting the effects of fatigue.
When tired or drowsy, our reaction times become slower and the risk of being involved in a dangerous collision increases drastically. We should always remember that while a quick nap and a drink can be a good solution in the short term, the only way to fully overcome the negative effects of fatigue is to get a good night’s sleep.
The risk of accidents increases when roads are wet, icy, or when visibility is poor. You can avoid such dangers by simply refraining from driving in such conditions – not putting yourself in danger in the first place is the best way to avoid collisions!
If you must drive in poor weather conditions, make sure that you adjust your speed accordingly, that your lights are fully operational, and that your full attention is on the road.
Driving under the influence
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is one of the most reckless acts that someone can undertake on the road. Both can significantly affect your reaction time, cause you to become unaware of your surroundings, and increase levels of drowsiness.
There are harsh penalties in Ireland for those who are caught driving under the influence and yet 6,562 motorists were arrested for doing so during the first 9 months of 2018 alone. Mayo County Council’s Road Safety Office implores drivers not to engage in such reckless behaviour, as it can have devastating and sometimes fatal consequences for drivers, passengers and bystanders.
If you are going out drinking it is important to organise transport home afterwards. Try booking a taxi in advance or having a designated driver who will remain sober for the night. Always allow yourself enough time to process alcohol after drinking before sitting into the driver’s seat the next day. It takes approximately 1 hour for 1 unit of alcohol to leave your system (bear in mind that 1 pint of beer contains 2 – 3 units of alcohol on average).
There are many potential dangers that can be avoided by taking pre-emptive measures to ensure that certain situations do not arise in the first place.
Driving requires concentration. Your focus as a driver should be on the road ahead of you and the road users around you. Sometimes external matters can draw our attention away from what is important and cause a momentary lapse in concentration, which may result in disaster.
The obvious solution to this is to remove the cause of distraction. You should never use a handheld phone while driving as this demands that you shift your focus away from the road. Try leaving your phone on silent while in the car so that you do not feel the need to respond to messages or calls. If there is an important call you must make while on the road, pull over safely and complete the call before you resume driving.
Other forms of distraction may not be so easy to get rid of. Parents often cite young children as a cause of frequent distraction when driving. If possible, parents should inform their children about the importance of road safety and work with them to reduce the level of bickering, physical movement and other behaviours that are common among child passengers that may be a distraction to the driver.
Distraction can also come from adult passengers and is particularly common among the peers of young drivers, who sometimes fail to understand the serious consequences that can be associated with driver distraction. As a driver you are fully entitled to ask your passengers to conduct themselves in a manner that is not distracting for you, or to pull over safely and come to a stop if the distractions continue.
Sometimes the distractions are not caused by some outside force but instead are internalised. Research shows that you are much more likely to be involved in a collision if you are driving when stressed and therefore you should avoid driving when you are feeling overly stressed or anxious. If you are worried or your mind is not focused on the road, it may be best to avoid driving if at all possible. In situations of extreme stress, you are advised not to get behind the wheel of a car – instead try calling a friend or asking someone to help you get to where you need to go.
Wear a Seatbelt!
Not wearing a seatbelt is detrimental if you are involved in a collision. Seatbelts save over 1,000 lives every year and strapping yourself in is one of the easiest ways to increase car safety. For drivers travelling with children, it is imperative to ensure that all passengers are secure in the vehicle, with their seatbelts fastened.
Make sure everything is up to date...
It is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that their vehicle is taxed, insured, and road worthy at all times. It is hugely important to ensure that all of the vehicle’s functions are fully operational, which includes making sure your headlights are working, checking your tyres regularly and adding air pressure or replacing them if needed, and regularly checking oil levels.
As good vision is a crucial component of good driving, it is also important to regularly test your eyesight. If you wear glasses, make sure that your prescription is up to date so that you have no difficulty in reading road signs or seeing clearly your surroundings.