Today’s cars are safer than ever before. To give you an idea of how much car safety has improved in the last five decades, an Australian motorist in 1975 was around five times more likely to perish in a car accident than a driver in 2015. This means that your safety on the roads is increasingly becoming your sole responsibility, and that avoiding bad driving habits can further reduce your risk of having a serious accident.
Here are five common bad habits that increase your risk of having a car accident.
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Being distracted when driving
A car travelling at a speed of 80 km/h covers approximately 22 meters a second, which means you can quickly cover significant distances when you take your eyes off the road for even a few seconds.
During this time any number of hazards can emerge in front of you, massively increasing the probability of a collision or losing control of your vehicle.
While mobile phone use is obviously a bad idea while driving, research indicates that changing a CD is equally as dangerous, attempting to evict an insect from a car is even riskier, and interaction with passengers is the biggest source of driver distraction related accidents. The rule of thumb here is that if you need to do anything in your car that doesn’t involve driving, do it while your car is stationary and not obstructing traffic.
A significant portion of the driving population apparently believes that closing the driving distance between themselves and the car in front of them by a couple of seconds will help them get to their destination faster. The truth is that tailgating not only does absolutely nothing to get anyone to their destination quicker, it actually radically increases the probability that they won’t get there at all.
In fact tailgating is recognized as one of the primary sources of road accidents in Australia, with data released by insurance agencies indicating that almost a third of accidents involve tailgating. To avoid having a tailgating accident, observe a following distance of at least 2 seconds, and preferably 3 to 4 seconds. With the average person requiring at least 1.5 seconds to react to a road hazard, anything less sets you up for a serious accident if the person in front of you unexpectedly hits the brakes.
Driving while drowsy
It’s no secret that driving while intoxicated significantly increases your chances of having a serious accident, with around a third of all fatal accidents in Australia involving drunk drivers. But did you know that driving while drowsy is just as dangerous? In fact research has indicated that sleep deprivation has an equivalent affect on driving performance to alcohol intoxication, and is responsible for around a fifth of the accidents on Australia’s roads every year.
Of course it’s unlikely that people who drive fatigued are doing so deliberately, and any number of factors can lead to drowsiness. However, the solution is straightforward. If you’re drowsy and feel like you need a nap – take one. A 20 minute nap can significantly alleviate drowsiness and improve your alertness and performance behind the wheel.
Just don’t nap for longer than 30 minutes, as this will put you into slow wave sleep and you’ll feel groggy when you wake up.
Poor tyre maintenance
Tyre quality has improved in quality along with other car safety systems over the last few decades.
However, drivers still have considerable influence over the condition of their tyres. And the condition of car tyres plays a critical role in how a car reacts, or can contribute to, to a variety of potentially hazardous conditions and situations on the road. So having your tyres in tip-top shape can not only save your life, but prevent you from losing it over something as trivial as a puncture.
The basics of tyre maintenance are simple. Check your tyre pressure at least once a month when refuelling your car, and ensure your tyres are inflated to manufacturer specifications. Replace your tyres when the tread falls below the tread wear bars, and rotate and balance your tyres at least once every 10,000 km. Finally treat your tyres with respect and avoid overheating or excessive wear caused by harsh cornering or maintaining high speeds for long periods.
Speeding is widely recognized for its significant contribution to serious car accidents. The reasons are simple. The faster you go, the less reaction time you have, and the harder the impact when things go wrong. However, speeding is also frequently mischaracterized as driving at speeds that would be generally recognized as excessive, such as hitting 180 km/h.
The truth is that speeding isn’t just how far you push your speedometer, but has to be understood in the context of driving conditions. 60 km/h an hour is too fast on a road with a lot of pedestrian traffic, while 50 km/h would be excessive on a winding mountain pass. Observing legal speed limits is the first step towards driving safely, but also ensure you reduce your speed whenever you encounter hazardous road or climatic conditions.
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