Driver Knowledge Tests

Reducing accident risk while driving

Driving a vehicle can be very dangerous, yet our safety behind the wheel is something we all take for granted as our confidence builds behind the wheel and driving routines that once required our full attention start to become second nature. Globally, there are over 1.35 million fatalities every year in automotive accidents, an unnerving proportion of which are the result of reckless driving and driving without due care and attention. Not many fatalities are caused by mechanical failure or medical events – they’re almost all related to inattention, misjudgment and poor decision-making. As others share the roadway with you, here are some things you can do to help keep everyone safe.

As you learned to drive, you would have learned a number of rules. Some are easy to understand, for example, the give way rules, whereas others might seem like they are there just to frustrate us. All of them exist to preserve the health and safety of road users. Following the rules of the country you are driving in makes you a predictable and generally safer driver – other drivers will expect that you’ll be driving within the rules. Combine this with an awareness of what’s going on around you – what other road users are doing – will dramatically reduce the risk you’ll be involved in an accident.

However, if you are involved in an accident, then there are some simple steps you can take:

  • Check your passengers and yourself – are you injured and can you get out of the vehicle (if it’s safe). It might not be safe if there are power lines down, for example.
  • Call emergency services if anyone is injured, the road is blocked or there is a dangerous situation. You don’t need to call police for every accident.
  • Gather information from other road users involved in the accident including their name, phone number, vehicle registration details, insurance information and driver licence number. You should give them your details, too, as they will be claiming on their insurance initially. Some countries, such as America, have other systems whereby you can check out the history of a driver to determine whether they have been responsible for previous similar accidents, such as – these are comprehensive, but shouldn’t be misused and you should only perform checks on those you have had accidents with and not use it to gratuitously check out friends and family. In most countries, though, your insurance company will manage all aspects of the case unless there’s criminal negligence (e.g. drunk driver)
  • Don’t admit fault. Anything you say could be used against you in the future. Even apologising can be used against you as it can be argued it’s an admission of guilt.
  • Gather information from anyone around who witnessed the accident.
  • Take as many photos as you can – make sure you get close up and distant shots of the scene from all angles, but don’t put yourself in harm’s way.
  • Call your insurance provider. Note that it is illegal to drive without compulsory third-party insurance (CTP) and if you’re involved in an incident with an uninsured driver they may try to flee.

Preventing accidents

Keep a clear head

Many accidents are caused by tired, intoxicated or muddleheaded drivers. It is important that you keep a clear head when driving should you want to stay on the safe side. You mustn’t, for obvious reasons, ever drink before you drive, and you should never venture out onto the road when you are overwhelmingly tired. Most main roads have rest areas so that if you are tired, you can stop and rest. Driving while tired can have similar effects to driving while drunk. Continuing on your journey when you are tired is a recipe for disaster and should any accidents occur you will be responsible for having caused them. 

Distracted driving also causes accidents. When you are driving, your focus should be on the road. If you are continuously thinking about other things and giving little attention to the roads, an accident will only be a matter of time.

Motorway driving means you need to be aware on all four sides of your vehicle

Wear your seatbelt

This one should not need to be said, but surprisingly, many people still do not wear their seatbelt, whether out of ignorance, stupidity, or because they want to appear ‘cool’. Not wearing a seatbelt puts your life massively at risk. Seatbelts exist solely to protect you and to prevent you from going headfirst out of the windshield during a car crash. If you set out without your seatbelt on, you are nothing short of an idiot. Seatbelts save lives. You will likely be fined if you are caught by the police for not wearing a seatbelt.

Use appropriate speed

As you get more comfortable with driving, the speed limit, rather than seeming quite fast, can begin to feel rather pedestrian. Speed limits are set for a number of reasons that include the road’s surface, visibility ahead, frequency of curves, likelihood of pedestrians and cyclists, or they are blanket speed limits for the open road or urban areas. The speed limit is another element of road safety that exists solely to protect you and those around you. By not adhering to the speed limit you can find yourself responsible for paying huge fines and even be subject to periods of imprisonment in some countries. Speeding drivers are statistically much more likely to find themselves involved in a road accident. The more demerit points you have accumulated through speeding, the higher your insurance premiums will be.

Service your car

Servicing your car is another thing you should do regularly to ensure that your vehicle is fit for the road and that you stay safe. If you drive a car that has not been serviced, it is more likely to break down on you at the worst time, or worse. As mentioned above, a small proportion of fatal accidents are due to mechanical failure, but there are a much larger number of non-fatal accidents that simply result in inconvenience or injury. Without keeping your car in good shape, you won’t be able to register it. If your car is not roadworthy, your insurance may be invalid.

Eliminate as many distractions as possible

Here’s a list of common distractions while driving. When you are driving, especially if you have friends in the car, do not allow for any distractions. Tell your friends to stop bothering you and keep your mind on the road. A distraction when driving can be potentially fatal, especially if it takes your mind off of the road at a bad time. Keep your head clear from distractions and unnecessary thoughts.

Hopefully, after reading this page you will be able to stay safe every single time you set out on the road. Driving can be dangerous if not taken seriously. The risks associated with driving can be minimised by simply using common sense and following the points listed in this guide.

Darren is an expert on driving and transport, and is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists

Posted in Advice