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Road safety: myths and tips

Myth 1

The car is insured, I don’t need to worry so much about my driving.

Fact: Insurance or not, nothing can replace a lost limb or rescue a crash victim from a wheelchair.

Myth 2

Crashes happen to speeding maniacs or really old drivers.

Fact: The most common crash is by an average driver, who makes an error of judgment. Bad drivers simply get noticed more, because they stand out by their erratic behaviour.

Myth 3

Every new driver has to have a crash, that’s how they learn.

Fact: Many responsible, thoughtful motorists have driven accident-free for 20, 30 or more years by adopting healthy attitudes about life, which has reflected in their driving record.

Myth 4

Accidents will always happen, there’s not much one can do.

Fact: Because all drivers are human the first part of this statement is sadly true. The second, however, is a fatalistic attitude that seeks to shed responsibility. A lifestyle comprising of a balanced diet, exercise, not smoking and drinking responsibly is a recipe for healthy life. Likewise, learning safe driving techniques and practicing them is a recipe for crash-free motoring.

Myth 5

After two years you get the hang of it.

Fact: Statistically, the first major crash happens just after coming of the probationary license, at age 19 or so. Low risk driving is a lifelong commitment to be made before every journey.

Myth 6

Driving is basically all common sense.

Fact: There is nothing wrong with applying common sense in every area of life. But when you are in an emergency there is not much time to choose the right course of action after considering all options. Certain road safety principles must be studied, stored in the brain and applied when called for. (Ask an airline pilot, who rescued his passengers with a skill he learned, and only had to use once!

Myth 7

Our roads would be safer if they introduced harsher penalties.

Fact: There will always be lawbreakers amongst us, no matter how harsh the punishment. Speed cameras and radar often catch otherwise safe motorists during a lapse in concentration. Heavier fines may create more angry drivers, not necessarily safer ones. Intelligent public education is the only way to reduce road trauma.

Myth 8

Getting trucks, cyclists etc. off the road would make traffic safer.

Fact: This option would not make traffic safer, but faster. Tolerance towards other (slower) road users and allowing them space is the hallmark of a low-risk driver.

Myth 9

If the government spent more money on roads there would be less crashes.

Fact: The main cause of road crashes is human error, over 90 % to be more exact. The human being, whose mind and body is operating the lethal weapon called motor car, is almost always responsible when a crash occurs.

Myth 10

If every learner driver had to practice skidding, they would better handle emergencies.

Fact: This is correct, but only to a point*. To spent hours practicing, how to recover from a skid, may become a dormant skill through lack of practice. (Airline pilots have hours of practice on simulators, driver’s don’t).

 

*Studies in Sweden have shown that new drivers, who did skid training had more crashes afterwards, than a non-trained group. They tended to take more risks on the road, which led to crashes.

Somebody boasting that they skidded five times while on holidays, but recovered each time to regain control, should take another lesson – how to avoid a skid in the first place. Driver who are skidding have made a mistake, unless there was an oil spill or other factor outside their control.

Recovering from skid is a good skill to have, but should NOT be needed very often. There a three aspects to skidding that every driver should know:

  1. If the wheels lock when braking, release the brakes immediately! If you brake too heavily, the wheels stop turning (lock), the car may skid. Re-apply them more gently!
  2. It the wheels spin, but the car is not moving, come off the accelerator! Applying too much power, too quickly, does not give the tyres a chance to grip the road; the wheels spin on the spot.
  3. Don’t over-correct with the steering wheel. Any sudden movement on the steering wheel, especially at high speed may result in loss of control. Steer gently!

Under normal condition, driving at a reasonable speed, using superior, advance observation, braking intelligently and gently, and avoiding undue harsh steering, you could be driving for many, many years and never lose control of your vehicle – no skidding! No myth, but fact.

A simple rule to remember, when you find yourself skidding:

Whatever your RIGHT FOOT is doing, STOP DOING IT !

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