Becoming a safer driver isn’t on the top of most peoples’ priority lists. However, it should be, especially in you’re between the ages of 17 and 24, and therefore fit into the ‘young driver’ demographic. Motor vehicle accidents rank second amongst the primary causes of death amongst young Australians, and this age group is also the most likely to perish in a motor vehicle accident.
Those young Australians who survive motor vehicle accidents can face the legal, financial and health consequences of an accident for years to come. And the dangers of unsafe driving are not restricted to young Australians. Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of preventable accidental death for Australians of all ages.
Here are some simple tips on how to be a safer driver.
Get fairer car insurance. Based on how you drive
Maintain your car
When you’re out on the road you’re going to face situations where there are factors out of your control. One factor you will have control over is the condition of your car in an accident scenario.
Key things to keep an eye on include:
- tyre pressure and tread depth
- the braking system
- suspension and shock absorbers
- hazard lights
The easiest way to keep these systems in good nick is to inspect them routinely and to follow manufacturer guidelines on servicing and replacement.
Driving in close proximity to the car in front of you is both annoying and dangerous, without having any impact on how quickly you reach your destination. Yet this behaviour is common on Australian roads.
International studies have indicated that most drivers travelling at 100 km/h require at least 1.5 seconds to react to a vehicle in front of them coming to a sudden stop. It is therefore recommended that you maintain a minimum 2 second following distance between yourself and the car in front of you when travelling at higher speeds.
The easiest way to determine this distance is to observe when a car in front of you passes a fixed point and to then count to 2. If your car passes the same point before you reach 2, you’re too close.
You’ll also want to double this distance when driving in adverse weather conditions or at night.
Don’t drink and drive
Despite decades of campaigning and the introduction of strict legal penalties for drunk driving, driving under the influence remains a major cause of road accidents in Australia. Around 30% of all fatal crashes in Australia are caused by drunk drivers. No matter how good a driver you are, just add alcohol and your reaction time will be significantly decreased, making your more accident prone.
These days its easier than ever to get someone else to take the wheel when you’re under the influence. So don’t take any risks. If you’re drinking, stay off the roads.
Taking your eyes off the road for even a couple of seconds can be fatal. In the past looking down at the music system to insert a CD or change a track was a common cause of accidents. Today it is smartphonesthat are causing the majority of distraction related accidents. As is the case with drunk driving and tailgating, driving while distracted reduces your reaction time. Taking just two seconds to read a text on your smartphone while travelling at 100 km/h will mean you’ll travel half a football field without having a clue what’s happening in front of you.
Check your blind spots
This will have been hammered into you during your driving courses, but it bears repeating. Failure to check blind spots before changing lanes is a major cause of accidents. A quick glance over your shoulder when changing lanes is one way of checking your blind spot, but you should also adjust your side-view mirrors to give you a glimpse of what’s sitting on your car’s shoulder.
Drive with both hands on the wheel
There’s some debate over where to best position your hands on a steering while driving. Some driving instructors preach the 2 and 10 o’clock hand positions, while others claim that the 8 and 4 positions are most comfortable and natural. The one place where driving instructors agree is that both hands should be on the wheel whenever possible.
This increases your responsiveness in an emergency and also provides you with more control and stability in general.
It’s been said that many people who die while speeding did so in an attempt to arrive at their destinations a couple of minutes earlier. Travelling above the speed limit can be necessary in certain situations, but should otherwise be avoided. Travelling at high speed when you need to react to an unexpected road hazard will reduce your reaction time, increase the probability of losing control of your vehicle during braking and significantly increase the forces your car and body are exposed to if they impact another car or object.
Defensive driving assumes that other drivers will not follow the guidelines above. This therefore has the potential to protect you from the unsafe driving of others. Basic guidelines here include checking for oncoming traffic at every intersection, proceeding with caution at intersections even when you have right of way, and staying out of other drivers’ blind spots. Last but not least, defensive driving sometimes involves knowing when to avoid the roads – such as major public holidays, at night or at other times when a higher proportion of drivers are likely to be inebriated or drowsy
Use a telematics app
Everyone thinks they’re a great driver. The only way to find out for sure is to make use of telematics technology to score your driving. Telematics apps like UbiCar can measure and score your driving in real time, providing detailed reports on how you rate on key considerations like braking, cornering, acceleration, speeding and phone use. This sets up a feedback loop which will allow you to identify specific weaknesses in your driving and apply corrective action to become a better and safer driver.
UbiCar also rewards your safe driving with fairer priced insurance and other rewards.