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Most Road Accidents can be Prevented - Fact or Fallacy?

Safety - 05 March 2019

Road traffic crashes are a major cause of death among all age groups, and the leading cause of death for children and young adults aged 5 – 29. This is according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), which in its most recent global status report on road safety, says that about 1.3 million people die and 20 – 50 million are injured on the world's roads every year. 

Sobering too, is that research at Northumbria University in the UK, states that road traffic injuries as the leading cause for life-changing disability is expected to jump to 3rd place by 2020 from 9th place in 1990 to become a significantly more important factor in changing health quality around the world than chronic conditions such as HIV and TB. 

Both studies are equally unequivocal about the critical role of the driver as a causal agent. The British research goes as far as putting negligence and over-speeding at 90% of the reason for accidents happening and “driver error” as the main recorded cause of accident.

Despite these grim figures however, the positive take-out must be that personal agency and decision-making is the single most important ingredient in road safety. The simple truth is that many millions of lives can be saved, and injuries prevented through basic self-awareness and proactive personal precaution. 

One cannot necessarily control what happens in the public domain – the necessary quality and improvement of road design, the efficient enforcement of the rules of the road or of best practise vehicle standards - but it really is within the power of every motorist to exercise the self-discipline that will enable them to reduce their own risk of becoming another road accident statistic. Actively practising the principles of preventative driving puts every motorist firmly in the driver’s seat when it comes to their own safety.

Speed Limits Save Lives

Speed is a lethal weapon. Not only does the chance of an accident increase, we also know that the fatality potential rises to 4% with every 1% increase in speed. It is considered a factor in nearly one-third of fatal crashes. 

According to South Africa’s long-standing Arrive Alive road safety awareness campaign, speeding can be defined as exceeding the posted speed limit and driving too fast for conditions. 

Obeying speed limits is often viewed as an optional choice when it is probably one of the single most important acts of personal prevention a driver can exercise.

Drunk Driving Increases the Risk of an Accident

Friends don’t let friends drink and drive. Driving under the influence of alcohol when the driver has a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) level of above 0.05 g/dl increases the risk of a crash dramatically. The WHO recommends a BAC limit of ≤0.05 g/dl for the general driving population, and ≤ 0.02 g/dl for young and inexperienced. 

The Drinkaware campaign in the UK points out that for drivers, alcohol can:

  • reduce your ability to see distant objects – night vision can be reduced by 25%
  • make you have blurred and double vision
  • reduce your ability to perceive what is happening around you
  • make you lose your peripheral vision.

With Uber only a call away can there really be any excuse for driving yourself or your friends on Phuza Thursday?

Seat Belts Save Lives 

Wearing a seat-belt reduces the risk of injuries and deaths among front seat occupants by 45-50% and rear-seat car occupants by 25–75%.  Research into the efficacy of seat-belts in reducing the severity of car crash injuries published in the Nigerian Medical Journal , found a mortality rate of 79% for patients who did not use a seat-belt. The facts speak for themselves – buckling up makes good sense.

Cars can be a Danger Zone for Kids

Restraining children (and pets) by securing them in age/weight/height appropriate restraints reduces the risk of serious injury and death considerably. 

According to ArriveAlive, various studies in the United States have shown that child safety seats that are correctly installed and used for children aged 0 – 4 years can reduce the need for hospitalisation by 69%. 

Children aged 8 – 12 years have 19% less risk of injury if booster seats are used instead of seatbelts alone. And where possible, restrict children from sitting in the front seat.

Mobile Phones Increase the Risk of Accidents by 4x

Mobile phones are so part and parcel of our daily lives that many of us see driving as the perfect time to make that call. The reality is that the WHO’s report states that driver reaction times are 50% slower when using a telephone while driving (whether hand-held or hands-free) and increases your risk of a crash by four times. Trying to text whilst driving ups the risk by around 23%. 

Mobile phones are a risky distraction – made more so by their commonplace reality – keep the car for your own quiet time and the mobile safely out of sight.

3 Essential Emergency Numbers in South Africa

Lives can be saved with timely care at the scene, prompt transport to hospital for emergency and surgical care, and early access to rehabilitation services. 

Radio station Cape Talk identified the 3 essential numbers to list under Emergency on speed dial as:

  • Nationwide Emergency Response – 10111 can be dialled from anywhere in South Africa for any emergency that requires police response.
  • Cell phone emergency - 112 can be called from any cell phone in South Africa and will transfer you to a call centre that will route you to the emergency service closest to you.
  • Ambulance response - 10177 can be used in the case of a medical emergency and can be called in conjunction with both the fire and police department in case of casualties.

If the vehicles involved are still operational, get them to the shoulder or off the main road. If you have flares or reflective emergency triangles, set them up to warn other cars. Move yourself and others involved away from the vehicle and to a safe place.

Good Car Maintenance is Non-Negotiable

The safety of vehicles play a critical role in averting crashes and reducing the likelihood of serious injury in the event of a crash. Vehicle defects such as failure of the brakes, steering system, tyre deflation, or the lighting system, can all be proactively prevented with regular checking.  

Supa Quick has over 250 tyre fitment centres in Southern Africa and a national team of more than 4,000 auto fitment experts trained to assist you. Find a store close to you and get your car checked today.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational, educational, and/or entertainment purposes only.

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