Road Safety Week

Posted on: 21 November 2017

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It’s National Road Safety Week: promoting driver awareness and safe driving. This year’s focus is all about speed. Think about what driving is in its simplest terms. Regardless of the vehicle – a very heavy lump of metal moving at high speed, with the potential to cause severe damage to anything that gets in its way.

Having a respect for driving and keeping safe on the roads is the most important thing to consider when sitting in the driver’s seat. We want to highlight some key areas we all could do with remembering to keep us safer on the roads.

Do you know about stopping distances?

We’ve all heard the term. We remember it from our early driving days with ‘L’ plates on our cars and our theory tests (or not if you passed longer ago). It might no longer be front and centre in our mind as it was when we were learning, but it’s an important factor of driving safely we all should remember.

The general rule for a safe stopping distance is to leave at least a two second gap between yourself and the vehicle in front[1]. An easy way to check is to count when the vehicle in front passes a sign and count how long it takes you to pass the same sign. The two second rule changes depending on speed, road and weather conditions, as well as the type of vehicle you’re behind (a lorry takes longer to stop, for instance).

Technology in vehicles is also enhancing road safety. Innovations like autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and adaptive cruise control help automatically brake the vehicle if the driver doesn’t respond to conditions in time and manage the vehicles speed to maintain a safe distance from vehicles ahead. The technology is becoming more widely used in newer vehicles and has the potential to save 1,100 lives in the UK over the next 10 years[2].

For more information on stopping distances, try The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents stopping distance simulator.

Blind corners and road surfaces

As well as keeping alert to what’s going on around you on the road, you also need to be aware of how the layout and surface of the road might present hazards.

On wet and gravelly roads, the risks come in the form of aquaplaning or skidding respectively, which could cause a serious accident. To prevent something potentially bad happening in these conditions, make sure there is enough tread on your tyres for better grip and keep speed under control for the same reason.

59% of driving deaths happen on country roads[3]. These types of road tend to have more sharp and blind corners than any other. Many of these accidents can be prevented by not driving faster than the speed limit – it’s the maximum, not a target.

Load safety

For commercial drivers, making sure loads are secured properly is incredibly important. Instances of HGVs rolling over are often due to a heavy load not being secured properly – compounded by the higher centre of gravity HGVs have.

A load not secured properly moves about within the trailer as well, which could lead to unusual handling and behaviour while moving. If the worst were to happen, people could get hurt, roads could be closed and a spilled load could contain harmful items.

Read more about load safety at the Health and Safety Executive's website.

Road conditions

Keeping an eye on the conditions around you are arguably just as important as driving itself. What allowances do we as drivers need to make in our approach for different conditions we face?

The first example springing to mind is a national speed limit country lane. The single lane, hedgerow covered, tractor hiding blind corners are often 60mph roads. It’s incredibly risky to take these roads at those speeds, but gives you an idea of how the road conditions can affect the way we need to drive. As well as this, considering situations we may face every day on the roads is equally important, such as driving in a contra-flow or past a school in the morning.

The weather is also a significant risk all road users need to be aware of. We need to alter our approach if it’s raining heavily for example.

Vehicle and tyre conditions

Basic vehicle maintenance, like keeping fluid levels topped up and checking tyre pressures (and tread levels) regularly keeps the engine running smoothly, reduces fuel wastage and, in the case of tyres, could prevent a catastrophic accident. Poor tyre maintenance is the main cause for car accidents in the UK[4].

It’s all of our responsibilities to ensure that our vehicles remain road worthy, through regular servicing and MOT’s and a few general checks.

Check out the AA’s top 10 quick car checks.

The number of vehicles licensed on UK roads has never been higher. There are estimated to be nearly 37.3 million vehicles licensed at the end of 2016, 30.9 million were cars[5]. Making sure our roads stay safe with these vast numbers on the road is very important. Manufacturers have developed many new technologies over the years to improve safety. There has been a shift in technology from when something happens (like an airbag) to preventative measures designed to stop them happening (AEB). We as drivers can all do our part. Road Safety Week is a good time to highlight it, but it’s something to consider all year round.

Get more information about Road Safety Week.

Think you’re a safe driver? Test yourself on this quiz from Brake.

[1] The Highway Code

[2] Thatcham

[3] Think! – Country Roads

[4] Autocar

[5] Department for Transport – Vehicle Licensing Statistics: Annual 2016