WA was shaken by the 11 devastating road fatalities that occurred over the labour day long weekend, in the worst three-day period on our roads. The majority of us like to think of ourselves as road smart as we abide by the laws designed to keep us safe, however there is no avoiding the sinister truth that every one of us is at risk when using our roads.
Long weekends have traditionally been times of high risk, due to an increase of traffic on the road. Every time we use a road vehicle we must stop to think about how we can be as safe as possible, not only for ourselves but for other road users. Here are some dangers facing road users and guidance on how to avoid them:
Distractions were to blame for 32% of all road crash deaths and serious injuries in WA, between 2005 and 2007. Between 15%-20% of all distractions appeared to involve driver interaction with technology. Here’s how to avoid being a victim of distraction:
- Turn off your smartphone/tablet/technology when driving (just because it’s hands-free doesn’t make it safe).
- Do you often get lost? Check a map before setting off and pull over safely if you lose your way. You should be keeping your eyes on the road, not scanning every road sign and landmark.
- Don’t try to multi-task, make driving your only priority. Pull over safely if you need to eat, drink or anything that isn’t driving!
- Noisy passengers? People management isn’t your role when driving. Ask them to be quiet or get out and walk! (A common threat from many parents across the state I’m sure).
- Pets must be properly restrained using a secure barrier or pet seat belt system.
- Recognise what distracts you and avoid it. For example, some people can not park while the music is on – turn it off.
Keep clean (your car that is, we’d hope you were already clean). Keeping your vehicle clean isn’t just about looking good, a dirty windscreen or mirror can be a huge distraction when driving. Keep water in the car so that you can give it a wipe down your windscreens and mirrors when you stop.
The risk of a car crash doubles with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05, this is the maximum legal limit allowed in Australia.
We have regulations in Australia but it must be noted that the effects of alcohol can vary significantly depending on the person:
- For men of average size, blood alcohol concentration should remain below 0.05% if no more than two standard drinks are consumed in the first hour and no more than one per hour after that.
- For women of average size, no more than one standard drink per hour should be consumed in order to stay under the limit.
Be safe and avoid alcohol altogether.
On average, about 60 people are killed on WA roads every year because of speeding-related crashes, with 375 people suffering serious, life-changing injuries.
There is currently hot debate surrounding the proposal to reduce speed limits, with one of Australia’s most respected road safety experts Professor Max Cameron calling on the government to bring the limit down to 90km/h.
Here’s some facts that really hit home just how significant a slight speed increase can have on your driving:
- A 5% increase in average speed means an approximate 120% increase in fatal crashes and 10% increase in crashes that result in injury.
- Hitting a vehicle or object at 50 km/h is equivalent to dropping a car from a three-storey building.
Being safe isn’t just about sticking to the speed limit, it’s knowing when to adjust your speed to suit driving conditions.
Examples of when you should be adjusting your speed:
- weather (fog/mist, rain, bright light)
- road works
- hazards on the road (debris, road kill)
- decreasing daylight
- changes in traffic flow
Fatigue is a danger often overlooked, hence the many road signs in WA declaring fatigue as a target for police. It’s frightening how drivers can actually drift in and out of sleep without knowing it. The term for this is a ‘microsleep,’ it’s the main cause of fatigue-related crashes.
Ideally a tired driver should pull over at a safe place and rest, or avoid driving all together. But we all get tired – how do we know when we’re too tired to drive? Here’s a list of tell-tell signs that you need a break when driving:
- You find it hard to focus on the road
- You miss a turning or road sign
- You realise you have zoned out unintentionally
- You can’t stop yawning and find yourself blinking more than usual
You may have heard that having a coffee, turning the radio up and opening the window are quick remedies for keeping fatigue at bay. Although they may help take the edge off in the short-term, you are still putting yourself and others at risk. Swap drivers or take a break, it’s not worth it.
As of March 10th 2016 we have had 43 deaths on WA roads. 43 deaths, but also countless lives devastated by the loss of their loved ones.
Commissioner Kim Papalia recently stated:
“We strive to make safer roads and safer vehicles and we must seek safer driving. Every death on our roads is avoidable – zero is possible.”
Unfortunately, we can not control the behaviours of others, but we can all learn from these shocking statistics. Stay safe this Easter.