January 1, 0001

Risk 1: Distractions

A European Commission study shows that driver distraction causes up to 30% of all road fatalities. Drivers can be distracted for a number of reasons but the top distractions are: sending & receiving messages, phone calls, eating and using navigation devices. Mobile phone use is the biggest distractions for drivers. In the USA one out of every four road traffic accidents is caused by texting while driving . Although it takes an average of just five seconds to read or send a text message, when driving at 85 km/h that is the equivalent of travelling the length of an entire football pitch with your eyes closed. 

Three tips for avoiding distracted driving

  1. Go offline. Don’t use your smartphone while driving. Set it to ‘flight mode’ or use a mobile signal blocker while the vehicle is in motion.
  2. Prepare before you set off. Take a couple of moments to prepare yourself, such as choosing your favourite music channel and entering your destination into the navigation system.
  3. Pull over. Stop the vehicle in a safe place and interrupt your journey briefly if you need to eat, drink, check your route, change your music selection, make a phone call, send a text, check on your children on the back seat or in any other situation that could cause you to become distracted.

Risk 2: Speeding

Speeding can be caused by distracted driving or drunk-driving, but it is also a type of aggressive driving behaviour in sober motorists. Speed is the main factor in 30% of fatal accidents. The consequences of driving at excessive speed include greater potential for loss of vehicle control, reduced effectiveness of occupant protection equipment, longer reaction time and stopping distance in the case of a hazard and increased severity of injuries in a crash.

Three tips for avoiding speed-related accidents

  1. Respect the speed limit. Speed limits are there to ensure the safety of all road users (e.g. cyclists and pedestrians in addition to motorists).
  2. Use your common sense. Adapt your speed limit for certain road conditions, such as when driving during bad weather, through roadworks or in poorly lit areas at night. If in doubt, slow down.
  3. Keep your distance from speeding drivers. Aggressive or speeding drivers may lose control of their vehicle more easily. If someone is tailgating you or trying to engage you in risky driving, use your own judgment to steer your vehicle out of the way and let them pass.

Risk 3: Fatigue

Many people don’t get enough sleep, yet fatigue has a huge impact on a person’s health, safety and quality of life. Sleepless nights aren’t the only causes of fatigue. Driving for long periods of time, without a break, and driving at times you’re usually sleeping can also put you at risk of dozing off behind the wheel. Nevertheless, the danger of driving while drowsy does not receive the attention it deserves, largely because it doesn’t fit with today’s ‘always-on’ economy.

Three tips for avoiding drowsy driving

  1. Get enough sleep on a daily basis – ideally seven to eight hours of sleep per night. This is the only true way to protect yourself against becoming drowsy while driving.
  2. Take regular breaks (at least every two hours) and have a 15 minute powernap if you feel yourself becoming drowsy.
  3. Steer clear of the high-risk times. Try to avoid driving during the peak sleepiness periods (late afternoon, and from midnight to 6 a.m.). If you have no other option, stay vigilant for signs of drowsiness (such as drifting or swerving), especially if you’re travelling alone.

Risk 4: Alcohol

Alcohol reduces the function of the brain, impairing thinking, reasoning and muscle coordination – all of which are essential to drive safely. According to research, 25% of fatalities are alcohol related. Driving after drinking alcohol significantly increases both the risk and the severity of a crash. In the USA alone, almost 30 people die in drink-driving crashes every day – which equates to one person every 50 minutes and amounts to more than 10,000 deaths per year. Many countries have introduced laws limiting the amount of alcohol that it is permissible to drink when driving. The safest way to be a responsible driver is to not mix alcohol with driving at all

Tips for avoiding drink-driving

  1. If you’ve been drinking, do not drive for any reason – even in an emergency. Use alternatives such as public transport, a taxi or a sober friend.
  2. Plan ahead. If you’re going out and drink alcohol, plan your ride home before you go; choose a non-drinking friend as a designated driver, use public transport or get a taxi.
  3. Watch out for others. If you know someone has been drinking, don’t let that person get behind the wheel. Help them to make alternative arrangements for their journey. This includes if you are hosting a party or dinner where alcohol is served.

Risk 5: Medicine and drugs

Many substances can impair driving, including some over-the-counter and prescription medicines as well as illegal drugs such as marijuana, opioids and methamphetamines. Some drugs slow coordination, judgment and reaction times, whereas others can make drivers more aggressive and reckless. Driving while impaired by any substance, whether legal or illegal, can put you and other people in harm’s way. 

Three tips for avoiding drug-impaired driving

  1. Check your medication. Prescription and over-the-counter medication can cause drowsiness, dizziness and other side effects, so read the labels carefully to make sure you are safe to drive. Note that warnings against ‘operating heavy machinery’ include driving a vehicle.
  2. Don’t mix. Using two or more drugs at the same time or mixing with alcohol, can amplify the impairing effects of each drug.
  3. Act responsibly. If you use an impairing drug, designate a sober driver, arrange a taxi or use public transport. Impaired drivers can’t accurately assess their own impairment. Remember: If you feel different, you drive different.