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What young drivers need to know about holiday road safety

Crashes involving alcohol, speeding and carrying of passengers are about 20 times more likely for teens than for middle aged adults…

Every year during university holiday seasons a high number of road deaths and accidents are reported, many of which involve students and young drivers.

According to Arrive Alive, crashes involving alcohol, speeding and carrying of passengers are about 20 times more likely for teens than for middle aged adults. In addition to that crashes occurring at night and involving both alcohol and passengers are about 9 times more likely.

Some of the reasons for this might seem obvious: young people have less driving experience, they’re more likely to break the rules of the road and/or be distracted. But knowing this, perhaps teens need further teaching and reinforcement when it comes to avoiding a car crash.

Factors that make young drivers a bigger risk, according to Arrive Alive:

  • Driver inexperience
  • Bravado/Ego/Feeling ‘invincible’
  • Failure to wear seatbelts
  • Drunken driving/Impaired driving
  • Night driving/Driver fatigue
  • Distracted driving/Distracted walking

“The above factors are not exclusive to our students and younger drivers – there are however reasons why they are more prevalent among this age group,” said Arrive Alive.

HOW TO ENHANCE DRIVER EXPERIENCE

Arrive Alive suggests that continuous driver training and advanced driver training as a way to enhance driver experience as well as the following:

  • Safety – Position and speed must always be put aside and sacrificed for safety.
  • Systematic driving – Driving by using skills to deal with any environment or situation, in enough time to decide on the best position, speed and gear of the vehicle to negotiate hazards safely.
  • Smoothness – The vehicle should be stable with little bounce or roll on the road and any passengers should be comfortable in the vehicle and have the utmost confidence in the driver’s ability. Nothing the driver does should look or feel rushed or hurried, resulting in an economical use of fuel as well.
  • Restraint – The ability to recognize when to hold back from particular hazards to ensure the safety and reassurance of passengers and other road users, or to avoid causing others concern, even if this concern may be unjustified.

With some additional training the young driver can be assisted to prevent collisions by making use of the Standard Accident Prevention Formula:

1. Recognise the hazard: Think and look as far ahead as possible. Never assume everything will be all right and always expect the unexpected.

2. Understand the defence: There are certain methods of handling each traffic situation, know these and teach yourself to react positively when the need arises.

3. Act in time: Once you have seen the hazard and you have recognised the defense, never adopt a ‘wait and see’ attitude as you will be wasting valuable time and space.

ADJUST YOUR ATTITUDE

  • Attitude Check: Although exterior and interior checks of your car are vital, an attitude check is just as helpful in preventing accidents.
  • A positive, pro-active attitude can really help reduce collisions. These include:
    • A tolerance and consideration for other road users.
    • Restrain yourself from reacting aggressively to another road user’s aggressive behaviour.
    • A realistic view of your own driving abilities.
    • Concern for your safety and that of your passengers and other road users.

AWARENESS OF THE DANGERS OF SPEEDING NEEDS TO BE INSTILLED IN THE MINDS OF THESE YOUNG DRIVERS:

  • At 20 km/h a minor driving error can easily be corrected but at 120 km/h the same error could prove deadly.
  • Never attempt to drive over the speed limit as it leads to late reactions in an emergency. If it is necessary to drive at the speed limit it should be done with complete concentration, clear visibility and knowledge of your stopping distance.
  • If you increase your speed, you should expect an increase of your required braking distance.

INSIST ON SEATBELT SAFETY

  • Much more awareness is needed on the importance of being buckled up and that wearing seatbelts is the Law!
  • There is often a false sense of security that airbags will save lives and prevent injury in a road crash.
  • With our low seatbelt wearing rates we need to emphasize that “the back seat is no safer” and that everyone must be buckled in – front and back seats.
  • Also important to emphasize that seatbelts should not only be used when driving on the freeway – they are designed to protect the best at residential speed limits and should be used however far or slow the drive to be taken!

DRINKING AND DRIVING IS NOT COOL

  • More awareness is needed on the symptoms associated with the intake of alcohol.
  • Even though we recommend a ZERO alcohol intake for drivers, it is important to also educate on the legal limits and the units of alcohol, the absorption of alcohol in the body etc.
  • Our younger road users who are not consuming alcohol themselves should be advised not to climb in a vehicle with a driver who is impaired.
  • Self-testing and breathalysing should be encouraged!
  • Designated driving services should be promoted as part of informed decision making.

NIGHTTIME DRIVING SAFETY

  • If possible to avoid driving through the night or late at night, it is best to delay driving till daytime.
  • The best way to prevent driver fatigue is to start a journey well rested.
  • Good, clear visibility is vital, so make sure your windscreen is clean and that your windscreen wipers are used in wet weather. Keep your windscreen free from mist at all times.
  • Head and tail lights should be in good working condition with the lenses clean and headlamps properly adjusted to give a good beam ahead without dazzling other road users.
  • It is also very important to drive at a speed at which you feel comfortable, and which will enable the vehicle to be brought to a stop within the range of the headlamps.
  • Slow down when in dimly lit, urban areas and remain alert to the not so visible and impaired pedestrian.
  • Approach and proceed across Intersections with caution.
  • If you feel drowsy, stop the car, stretch your legs, enjoy some refreshment and rest your eyes.
  • A short rest will help to restore the failing powers of concentration and observation.

PREVENTING DISTRACTED DRIVING

  • Best advice is to avoid using cellular phones when driving.
  • When the phone rings, let it ring! It’s better to use your phone’s voicemail or even miss a call than to put yourself, your passengers or others at risk.
  • If you have to make a call on a hands free cellular phone – ask a passenger to dial or answer the phone for you.
  • Keep your calls brief.
  • If you expect such a call to last longer than a few seconds – be on the lookout for a suitable spot to pull over.
  • Never take notes or jot down numbers whilst driving.
  • When in heavy traffic –rather tell the person you will call back when it is safer.

Also read: Distracted driving is still a massive problem in SA!

The following video, by the students at the Free State University focuses on road safety for young drivers, particularly when it comes to holiday time:

Video via Youtube  

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