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It’s easy to become complacent or forget the importance of safe driving – until you learn the alarming road incident statistics. With plenty of road safety messages in the media as we head up to Easter, it’s a timely reminder we need to get to our destination safely.
During the 2016 Easter holiday period there were 4 fatal crashes and 102 reported injury crashes. Those crashes resulted in 4 deaths, 40 serious injuries and 102 minor injuries.
The most commonly cited contributing factors for crashes over the Easter holiday period were; losing control (30%), travelling too fast for conditions (23%), and inattention (19%).
In this post, we outline a few safety measures to help keep you and your loved ones safer while on the road this Easter.
It’s understandable that you may be in a hurry, but life is all about the journey, not the destination.
Police decisions about speed limits are based on evidence. It’s tempting to think you’re safe driving a few kilometres over the limit, but extensive research from New Zealand and overseas shows small increases in speed raises the crash risk for all road users. Everyone travelling a few kilometres slower makes us all safer.
The specified speed limit is 50km/h in urban areas and usually 100km/h on open roads. Stick to these and remember if the roads are wet, slow down and increase following distances. 23% of accidents were due to people driving too fast for the conditions. Don’t let it be you.
Be a responsible driver. The road is not for you only; there are other drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and even the odd animal. Show consideration for other users and avoid switching lanes suddenly. Only use the horn when necessary.
Before every trip, plan your route carefully. Don’t hog lanes and always use traffic signs judiciously. If you’re not in a hurry or are pulling a caravan or trailer, stay left in passing lanes and pull over to let other motorists pass safely.
Ensure you maintain a safe distance between your car and the one in front, to leave enough space in case you suddenly need to stop. The two second rule [ST1] is appropriate under normal driving conditions. However, in severe weather or poor visibility, it increases to four seconds.
Do you have insurance? You can save yourself a headache with the right vehicle cover. You can also check State NZ for a quote. From a minor collision to one that’s more serious, a good car insurance policy can make all the difference.
Maintain the left lane unless you want to overtake a vehicle. Afterwards, make sure you can see at least 100 metres in front of you. Use your side and rear-view mirrors frequently. Be aware of your surroundings.
If you are driving on an open road during peak holiday traffic, set your main headlights to ‘dip mode’. This makes it easier for oncoming and overtaking traffic to notice your vehicle.
Seatbelts are a must-use for every occupant in a moving vehicle. According to the Ministry of Transport, wearing a safety seatbelt reduces chances of death or serious injury by 40% in the event of a crash.
In other statistics, the percentage of adults in New Zealand who wear seatbelts is 96% for the front seat and 90% for the back seat. These figures should be higher, especially for back seat occupants. Ensure your child is restrained when driving with toddlers.
Never get behind the wheel if you feel tired or sleepy. Attention, memory, coordination and other skills crucial for safe driving are hampered by sleepiness.
Learn to recognise the warning signs - such as frequent blinking, heavy eyelids, daydreaming and difficulty focusing – and then stop driving immediately. It’s better to pull over for a short, reviving nap and continue on the road when you feel more alert
If you must get somewhere on-time, let someone else drive.
If you are going to a social function, it’s simple; leave your car at home. End of story. Alcohol and driving don’t go together. If you are going as a group, appoint a sober driver or make sure you get an Uber home. Never enter a car with a drunk driver.
You will have seen several advertisements about not texting and driving. Pay attention to this message, as it prevents accidents.
Under the Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004, no driver is allowed to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving to:
· make, receive or terminate a telephone call
· create, send or read a text message or email
· create, send or view a video message
· communicate in a similar or any other way.
Some cars have provision for coupling your phone to the speakers. Activate it or let one of the passengers handle your calls instead. Never text whilst driving.
Driving carefully is not only about safety. For instance, not accelerating unnecessarily will cut fuel consumption and save money on fuel.
Did you know that travelling at 100km/hr instead of 110km/h can reduce your fuel expenses by 13%? Reduce drag by keeping your windows up and not opening the sun-roof or fitting a bike rack unless necessary.
The condition of your car is just as important to safety as your driving habits. If you haven’t serviced your vehicle recently, now is a good time to do it. Is your engine in good condition? When was the last time you checked the oil? What about the brake lights? Poor visibility can cause collisions at night.
A sudden tyre blow-out can send your car careering out of control, especially when travelling at high speed. Avoid such scenarios by inspecting your tyres regularly. Visit a garage and ensure the pressure levels are in order before your trip. Learn more about car tyre safety here .
Stay safe and enjoy your Easter break. Hopefully, the biggest danger you will face will be too much chocolate and too many hot cross buns.