Distracted drivers most dangerous
INATTENTION IS A HUGE FACTOR IN MANY ROAD COLLISIONS
Jim is a well-respected former workmate who has never been afraid to voice his opinion. He is retired but like any good armchair critic, he keeps a close eye on the motor industry — and his former workmates.
He messaged me recently after a column about vehicle safety.
Jim: “I can’t argue that cars are a lot safer these days, but it doesn’t seem long ago that the Warrant of Fitness regulations stated no TV-like screens were allowed where they could be seen by the driver and cause a distraction. The so- called safer modern motor vehicle has GPS screens and similar gadgetry that can very easily distract drivers. It’s something I witness, and get annoyed about, on a regular basis.”
Hard to disagree with you, Jim. The NZTA website states driver distraction was a contributing factor in 21 fatal crashes, 170 serious injury crashes and 1133 minor injury crashes in 2013. And to back up your observations, one of the reasons given for inattention while driving was looking at driver information screens and GPS.
Other reasons noted were mobile phones, music, food and drink, other passengers and scenery.
We can also add unsecured carmats, adjusting seats and mirrors, unsecured cargo, inappropriate footwear or discarding inappropriate footwear while driving and leaning over to attend to young children’s — or pet’s — needs to the list.
The bottom line is: vehicles have certainly been made a lot safer by manufacturers, but one of the biggest potential dangers is still the driver.
One way to avoid information screen and GPS distractions is for the driver to have everything set the way they like it before hitting the road.
But what happens when a vehicle drifts on to your side of the road and into your path because of a distracted, confused or drowsy driver?
A Do nothing?
B Steer right toward the centre line/opposite side of the road?
C Steer left or away from the centre/opposite side of the road?
The NZTA website says a head-on crash is probably the most dangerous type of crash to be involved in. This is because when two vehicles collide head-on, the force of the impact is usually twice as much as when a vehicle hits a non-moving object.
So if you find yourself heading towards a head-on crash, there are some things you can do to try and avoid the crash or limit its damage:
■Brake hard. Every kilometre of speed that you slow down by will lessen the impact of a crash if it happens.
■Flash your headlights and sound your horn to attract the attention of the other driver.
■Look for an escape route to your left, even if it means driving off the road. A roll-over accident is likely to be less dangerous than a head-on crash.
■Avoid swerving to your right. The other driver is most likely to respond by swerving back to their correct side of the road. You need to try to avoid a head-on crash.
Other handy driving tips to help avoid an accident or reduce injury:
■When indicating, allow up to four seconds or approximately four clicks of the indicators before changing lanes.
■When stopped at traffic lights, try to park directly behind the vehicle in front with your front wheels pointed straight ahead. This will ensure you won’t be shunted into oncoming traffic if you are hit from behind.