Whether you’re a new driver or you’ve had your driving licence for 40 years, road accidents happen to drivers regardless of their experience.
And last year there was a total of 5,676 injury road collisions recorded.
There were 8,872 casualties, and 56 road users sadly lost their lives.
Accidents happen for a wide variety of reasons but a common theme in PSNI statistics every year shows that the cause of the vast majority (51%) of collisions is human behaviour.
Indeed, it led PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd to say, “The simple reality is that many collisions can be avoided.”
Here are 15 simple ways to avoid a road accident.
1. Slow down, Look and Listen.
Whether you’re cruising the back roads of South Armagh or the majestic North Antrim Coast , always consider blind spots.
Remember to stop, look and listen.
Check your rearview and side mirrors, slow down when it comes to winding bends on roads and if you’re in unfamiliar areas, err on the side of caution and slow down.
2. Watch for traffic light dodgers.
When approaching a green light always look left and right.
A lot of accidents happen at traffic lights where drivers think “I could make this light” and drive on through an amber- or worse- a red light. Those ‘amber-gamblers’ can cost not just their own life- but yours too.
For your peace of mind, use the three-second rule: when you approach a green light count to three, look all around you and ensure it is safe to continue.
3. Keep an eye out for children.
Young children haven’t the road safety maturity as older kids, so if you’re driving in a built-up area or close to schools, always pay full attention to your surroundings.
Children could step out from in front of a school bus, or behind a parked car so drive slowly in areas with street lights and be prepared for all eventualities.
4. Look after your vehicle to help it look after you.
Maintaining your vehicle to a good standard is vital.
Get your car serviced every twelve months or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first for you.
It’s a good idea to have your brakes are checked by your mechanic at least every six months.
To avoid sudden stops, check your engine oil regularly and keep an eye for any faults on your car’s digital dashboard if you have one.
Put air in your car tyres regularly, at least once every three weeks and before every longer-than-normal journey to avoid dangerous blow-outs.
We’ve all been driving on the motorway and overtaken a lorry.
And our car gets sprayed with dirt and rain; keep your windscreen and mirrors clean too.
To ensure your sight is never hampered, always keep your windscreen washer fluid topped up and replace your wipers regularly, at least every six months Is recommended.
5. Use the 12-second rule while driving.
Developing your driving awareness helps you to avoid accidents.
The 12-second rule means you should scan the road 12 seconds ahead of you for potential danger, obstacles and will help you anticipate risks.
6. No seatbelt, no excuse.
Over the years we’ve all watched the terrifying road safety adverts on TV, like this one, warning us of the dangers of not wearing a seatbelt.
It takes just a second to put on your seatbelt and not only is it the law, but you should wear a seatbelt at all times when in a vehicle.
7. Do not speed.
Another advert we’ve watched in horror is this one, urging all Northern Ireland drivers to slow down.
And while it focuses on male drivers, the message applies equally to all genders and ages: speed kills.
Speeding reduces the time you have to react to a situation and increases your chances of being in a fatal collision.
Factor in bad weather, freezing conditions and traffic volume to every journey and always err on the side of caution by sticking to speed limits on every road.
If in doubt, slow down.
8. Forget the 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock positions. It’s now 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock.
Cast your mind back to when you were learning to drive, and your driving instructor always reminded you, “Both hands on the steering wheel, hands at 10 and 2!”
But times have changed.
Nowadays, it’s standard advice to instead position your hands at 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock.
Keeping both hands at 9 and 3 allows you to have more control over your vehicle, especially if you need to change direction suddenly.
9. Use your indicators appropriately.
You’re driving, and you slow down as the car in front indicates to take a right turn.
Surprisingly, they turn left instead.
It’s a story that’s played out thousands of times a day in Northern Ireland and one that causes accidents.
And PSNI statistics for 2019 back this up: the most common cause for KSI (Killed and Seriously Injured) casualties were ‘wrong course/position’.
Even if you don’t think someone is in front of or behind your vehicle, get into the habit of indicating your intention anyway.
When you’re switching lanes on a motorway, indicate several seconds before you change lane to allow other road users time to prepare for your lane change.
10. Keep your eyes moving.
A lot of people say they go into autopilot when they’re driving, but that’s not ideal for preventing accidents.
Your eyes should always move while driving; looking past the car in front, to the sides, in your side and rearview mirrors.
Like the 12-second rule talked about in number 5, moving your eyes lets you spot hidden dangers, anticipate possible dangerous situations and helps you to concentrate on other driver’s intentions.
11. Be careful of minor accidents in Northern Ireland car parks.
A massive 48% of drivers in the UK have said their car was hit while parked in a car park.
When you’re driving in a car park, you’re met with a unique collection of dangers: other cars, pedestrians, pets, wheelchairs and children.
Visit any car park in Northern Ireland, and you’ll likely spot one car waiting while another car slowly reverses into a tight space and pedestrians cutting through those spaces on their way to the shops.
But there are some simple things you can do to avoid car park incidents.
Always use your indicators and keep an eye on all pedestrians around you.
Slow down to a snail’s pace when manoeuvring in or out of a parking space.
Park correctly within the white lines to avoid other car doors opening and ruining your beautiful paintwork.
Use all of your mirrors regularly and if necessary, turn your head around while reversing to double-check blind-spots that a mirror can miss.
12. When you’re in your car, concentrate wholly.
It might sound like common sense, and we hate to be Captain Obvious, but when you’re in your car, it needs to be respected as something that can give you many hours of happy driving but also cause serious accidents in the wrong hands.
Never pick up your phone while driving; or text or do anything that takes your eyes off the road or affects your concentration levels.
Instead, when you get into your car before putting the key into the ignition, set your phone to airplane mode so that you won’t be tempted to glance at your latest Insta or Facebook notifications.
Are you expecting an urgent call or text message? Simply pull over somewhere safe, turn off your car and make the call or reply to the message.
13. Where possible, avoid driving at night or in bad weather.
Unfortunately for us in Northern Ireland, we seem to have more bad weather than good.
And we’ve more dark days than most countries, so it’s hard to avoid night-time driving and bad weather driving totally.
But driving at night brings a whole host of dangers: reduced visibility, lights stunning you, drink drivers, tiredness, and wildlife crossing main roads.
Then factor in our world-renowned rain, occasional fog and snow, and the chances of being involved in an accident increases.
If you do have to drive in bad weather or at night, ensure your lights (including fog lights) work properly.
Make sure your heating system is in full working order too, so that you can demist your windscreen.
14. If you’re tired, do not drive.
In 2018, fatigue caused 62 fatal road collisions in the UK and more than 1,500 road traffic accidents.
Tired drivers pose the same risks as drunk drivers.
Concentration levels plummet when you’re tired, and even a split-second loss of focus behind the wheel can have devastating consequences.
15. Never assume what another driver is going to do.
How many times in your life have you seen the car in front indicate left or right and just drive straight on?
It’s a common cause of accidents; drivers assume that someone will make a turn if they’ve indicated to the left or right.
But driving isn’t an exact science. While you might indicate to go right, your sat nav might tell you to go straight on so you change your mind and change course.
Therefore, by dealing with actions and not assumptions, you can cut the risk of collisions.
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