You don't have to be Einstein to realise there's more cars on the road than ever before. Traffic is getting heavier, journey times are longer and people are growing more short-tempered and impatient behind the wheel. What used to be a pleasurable activity is now an ordeal to be suffered from beginning to end. Frazzled drivers, pedestrians in a hurry, more vehicles and less time to make the trip to and from work equals more accidents, more injuries and, unfortunately, more deaths.
The most common car crash on Australian roads is the nose-to-taili. Following the person in front too closely ("tailgating") means if the car in front stops suddenly, you have no room to prevent an accident - you'll more than likely collide with them, and you'll probably be at fault. Not only will your car be damaged, so will the other party's and injuries are probable. At speed, deaths are not uncommon. Something as simple as not leaving the recommended safe following distance could change your life, or that of another person's, completely. The "three second rule" is a great way of ensuring you have left a safe distance between you and the car in front: when the car in front passes an object on the side of the road (such as a set of traffic lights, a tree, a mailbox etc) count slowly to three seconds. A good rule of thumb is to say "one alligator, two alligator, three alligator". You should not pass the same object before you've finished counting to three seconds. If so, slow down and increase the distance.i
In the 12 months to October 2012, speed was a factor in 145 of 226 fatalities in New South Wales, whereas fatigue was a factor in 61 accidents and alcohol. Furthermore, 43 deaths involved drivers or passengers not wearing a safety device (i.e. seat belt).ii
Logically, then, slowing down not only helps prevent accidents, it also minimises the risk of serious injury or death if you do happen to be involved in an accident. Sometimes accidents are unavoidable, but if you're driving safely then damage and injuries could be less severe. Slowing down will also help you avoid fines, loss of demerit points and loss of your vehicle while it's being repaired or replaced. Always obey sign posted speed limits and decrease your speed in wet weather or adverse conditions. When driving in the country or outback, be aware of wildlife and sudden weather changes.
Fatigue is another avoidable factor when it comes to accidents. It sounds simple, and that's because it is: never drive tired or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Get a good night's sleep if you're planning to drive early or long distances the next day. If you do become tired while driving (learn the signals, such as yawning, oversteering or slow reactions, boredom or tired eyes) then pull over and rest. Many states in Australia have 'Driver Reviver' sites: places where you can pull over and safely exit the vehicle, sometimes have a cup of tea or coffee, and stretch your legs. Many of these sites are located at picturesque spots and just off the main road.
The drink driving message has been around for decades now, and statistics clearly show that if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, even a small amount can impair your judgement. Not only will you feel better when you drive sober, you can avoid the panic that sets in when you spy an RBT (random breath test) station. And if you have trouble remembering what the safe legal limit is (it's 0.05) and how many drinks it takes to get there, steer clear of alcohol altogether if you're driving.
Lastly, wearing your seat belt will prevent more serious injury or death in the event of an accident; combined with airbags throughout many modern vehicles, seat belts have dramatically reduced fatality rates in vehicle crashes. It takes but a second but could save your life. Always buckle up, and ensure children have appropriate seats and belts.
Many accidents on Australian roads are avoidable. However in the rare and unfortunate event that you're involved in an accident, if you're driving safely then damage to property and injury to persons could be minimised. Practice safe driving and keep safe on the road.