If you’ve recently passed your driving test or if you cycle on the road, it might interest you to know that this month is the UK’s National Road Victims Month. This means that August is a month dedicated to raising awareness about road safety and, in turn, preventing the 5 road deaths which take place in the UK every day. It’s also a month for heightening solidarity with victims of road collisions and the families of those who have suffered or died in road collisions. In support of the campaign, here is a by-no-means-exhaustive list of road safety.
Keep your phone in your pocket.
It’s illegal to use a handheld mobile when driving, even when you’re waiting in front of traffic lights. You’re four times more likely to be in a car crash if you use your phone and your reaction speed will be two times slower than if you were under the influence of alcohol. So, as tempting as it might be to check that Facebook notification, you must not use your phone while driving, for the safety of yourself and others. If you’re caught using your phone, you’ll get a £200 fine and 6 penalty points on your license, which is enough to make you lose your license in the first two years after passing your test.
Don’t drink and drive.
This is an obvious one, but the consequences are substantial if you do drink and drive: you’ll get a driving ban of at least 12 months; a criminal record; a fine; up to 6 months in prison and; a penalty point on your license for 11 years. Even if you feel like you’re more sober than drunk, it’s better to be safe and use another mode of transport: alcohol can easily distort your perspective on matters like your own sobriety. This applies when you’re travelling short distances, too, since a sizable proportion of drink drive crashes take place within three miles of the journey’s starting point.
Stay below the speed limit.
Speeding may be fun and exhilarating, but it’s also incredibly dangerous: the risk of death is around 4 times higher when a pedestrian is hit at 40 miles per hour than at 30 miles per hour.
Don’t speed on country roads.
59% of all fatalities take place on country roads and fatal collisions are 4 times more likely on rural A roads than on urban A roads. This is, in part, because of the sparsity of rural roads, which gives drivers the impression that they can be all Formula 1. But country roads are also often thin and windy, meaning that a speeding car going around a bend can easily collide with a passing pedestrian, or even another car.
Be wary of cyclists.
Sometimes, cyclists will be the bane of your life. They’ll whizz around you like pesky flies who think they own the road and will act like traffic lights don’t mean a thing (something I’m allowed to say as one such pesky fly myself). Cyclists will often be in the wrong, but this is where you’ve got to take a deep breath and be the better driver; you’ve got to swallow your pride and be extra mindful of them creeping up behind you because, ultimately, you can’t give them a road safety lesson from your car window and, more importantly, you can kill them a lot easier than they can kill you.
Cyclists, be careful.
Point number 5 doesn’t mean that we are excused from our awful collective record on road safety. Cars can only be so careful; the rest is up to us. I know it can sometimes be tempting to feel morally superior as the zero-carbon users of the road, but that doesn’t give us the right to disobey the highway code: be mindful of lorries as they turn (since they often can’t see us); always overtake to the right of the traffic and get back to your lane as quickly as possible; indicate clearly and; don’t risk your safety for the sake of speed. Also, while we’re here, always wear your helmet, even if you’re travelling a short distance. Safety comes before style when you’re on the road.
Wear your seat belt.
Whether it feels uncomfortable, or whether on a short journey, you must keep your seat belt on. If you get into a collision, you’re twice as likely to die if you don’t wear a seatbelt. Something else to bear in mind is that 17-34 year olds have the lowest seatbelt-wearing rates and the highest accident rates, and this is a statistic that we, as young people, need to address.
Don’t drive if you’re tired.
Almost 20% of accidents on major roads. If you find yourself getting sleepy on the road, do the right thing and stop for a break, or park somewhere and use another mode of transport. To young male readers, you are statistically more at risk of falling asleep at the wheel, so be extra careful of this one.
Don’t take drugs and drive.
Again, this feels like an obvious one, but it’s worth mentioning that this law applies to prescribed or over-the-counter medicines as well as illegal drugs. For a list of legal drugs which may affect your ability to drive, visit the following article on gov.uk.
Motorcyclists, you’re not off the hook:
all the above applies to you too. Motorcyclists only make up 1% of all road traffic in the UK, and yet they account for 19% of all road user deaths. Some key points to remember are: to keep under the speed limit, to be careful of lorries, to overtake to the right of the traffic and to return to your lane soon afterwards.
Amidst all these bleak statistics, I will say that there is a unique sense of freedom and independence that comes with cycling, motorbiking or driving - just know that with that freedom comes a responsibility to be sensible on the road.
- By Papatya O’Reilly