National Road Safety Week (November 16-22) is an annual initiative to reduce road trauma. Every year, there are approximately 1200 people killed and another 44,000 seriously injured on Australian roads. Traffic injury is the biggest killer of Australian children under 15 and the second-biggest killer of all Australians aged between 15 and 24.
These are shocking statistics. We can all do more to combat it, whether you’re a seasoned truck driver or a P-plater heading out on the roads for the first time alone. This week is the ideal time for all of us to stop and think about our driving habits, and how they affect the people we share the road with.
No matter how well we think we drive, there’s likely many things we do on the roads that we shouldn’t, most without realising. Here are some of the unsafe driving habits you need to stay aware of, all year round.
- Speeding on Quiet Streets
Even when there are fewer people on the road, you need to be patient. Stick to the speed limit and follow road signage – give way when signed, actually stop at a stop sign. It’s telling that during the national COVID-19 lockdown, speeding and stop sign breaches were more likely, while drink driving and drug-driving offences remained static.
People were keen to make the most of their time outside, and a quick trip to the shops was common for many. Yet in the rush to get the essentials, safe driving practices went out the window. Remember, it only takes a split-second reaction or indecision for an accident to occur.
- Head checks and mirrors
Blind spots are called that for a reason.
Failing to head check is one of the major reasons people fail at getting their drivers licence, and it’s one of the first good habits that goes out the window once they pass. The same goes for checking your mirrors.
So remember, you should check your mirrors every few seconds, so that you maintain awareness of what’s going on behind and around you. And head checks – actual head checks where you turn your head and look over your shoulder – should be done before you change your position on the road.
- Insecure Loads
It’s one of the things that we’re least likely to think about when we get in the car or climb into the cabin, and it’s also one of the most dangerous.
In the event of a crash, anything that isn’t stored properly in the car becomes a projectile, hurtling around a confined space at high speed. Smartphones, bags, books, laptops, and handbags all become extremely dangerous when there is a collision.
Always make sure that everything is stored properly when you drive. Use the boot and glove compartment if you can. Or at a pinch, make sure that larger items are stored in footwells and not left loose on seats. Of course, securing loads on trailers and in trucks is also important for transport operators.
Improperly secured loads on utes and trailers can shift during cornering if they aren’t properly tied down, falling off or even worse, causing the vehicle to jackknife, leading to accidents that could have been avoided.
- Caffeine Highs
Keeping your favourite caffeinated beverage close to hand on a long drive is a habit as old as the road trip.
However, caffeine generally only stimulates you for between 15 and 45 minutes at a time. You’d have to drink a lot of coffee for it to have the effect that you want it to have, which comes with its own side effects. You’re much better off keeping water close by to stay hydrated.
Instead of chugging coffee or slamming litres of Coca-Cola, pull over safely and stretch your legs. Getting out from behind the wheel and having a walk, getting some fresh air into your lungs and getting the blood pumping a bit will do a much better job of refreshing you.
- Maintenance Is Key
With our vehicles not used as often as normal, or even parked for weeks at a time during lockdown, it’s very important that you check your vehicle’s roadworthiness constantly before getting going. Hours spent back out on the road can cause a small issue to become a bigger in no time. With road trips to the countryside becoming more common since travel is non-existent, it’s important to check your car before you leave.
All vehicles should be checked before every trip, with particular attention paid to tyre tread, and oil, water, and coolant levels. Forewarned is forearmed.
- Breakdown Safety
If you do break down, it’s important to make sure that you stay safe.
While you don’t have a choice about where a breakdown happens, many incidents are caused by cars that have pulled over in inappropriate places while people work on the issue. For example, changing a flat tire not as far away from the lanes on the side of a motorway. Fast moving vehicles and limited space aren’t an ideal combination.
Instead of trying to fix the issue yourself, it’s safer for everyone if you stay inside the vehicle and wait for roadside assist to help.
The above examples are just a few of the small things that can cause big problems on our roads. By paying a little more attention to our driving habits and thinking about what we’re doing on the roads, we can all contribute to a safer road environment.
National Road Safety Week runs from November 16-22. For more road safety facts, check out our infographic on the 7 Biggest Driver Safety Myths.