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Safe driving in the new year (3)

With the celebration of the New Year having passed, and the Yuletide season rolls away, there is heavy traffic on the roads as families that traveled out of the major urban centres to various rural communities head back to the cities. Expectedly, the incidence of car crashes on the interstate highways and on some intra-city roads is increasing as motorists not imbued with the discipline for restraint on the freeway get behind the steering wheel. In continuation of our series on safe driving during the Yuletide, lets look at more factors responsible for car crashes at this time of the year.
Driving under influence
Driving is a serious occupation that demands total concentration. It is said to be the most dangerous of all human activities. A recent World Health Organisation study showed that 40 to 60 percent of all injury-related deaths are attributed to violence. This is particularly so for traffic accident involving alcohol.
Alcohol misuse is usually on the high side in this season. So too are drugs, whether legal or illegal. But do you know that an estimated 25 per cent of those who drive after drinking get involved in accidents which are alcohol-induced and that the chances of you being involved in an accident are multiplied 10 times and that such accident could be fatal depending on the level of alcohol. Like alcohol, drugs affect your driving behaviour and can lead to some of the following, either separately or in combination: slower reactions, which can make you react incorrectly, poor concentration and confused thinking. An un-concentrating driver is like a mad man with a sharp knife and nobody knows who the next victim will be. A drugged driver is over confident and has distorted perception of the event and situation around him. He is at risk of taking unnecessary risks that can expose him to unimaginable danger. He also has poor coordination, lacks the composure to put himself together in an emergency situation. He is restive and erratic, unable to be in control of his actions as he loses his composure, sometimes feigning ignorance and showing arrogance at the same time. He also has blurred vision, dizziness and severe fatigue. Drugs and alcohol therefore increase the chances of road crashes but also their fatalities.
Use of phone while driving
Phoning mania is a global problem. Section 80, subsection 7 of the National Road Traffic Regulations stipulates that no driver of a vehicle shall whilst the vehicle is on motion receive or make telephone calls in any form. The use of phone while driving
has monstrous consequences. This is because driving is a serious business, which requires 100 per cent concentation. Since nobody can do two things at the same time with the same level of efficiency, motorists are prohibited from engaging in anything that will prevent the person from holding the steering with both hands (while the vehicle is in motion). One of such is driving and phoning. Distress calls have great destabilizing effect on people’s emotion and psyche. Exciting calls may also create some negative impulses. The motorists and passengers who are unfortunate enough to be caught in this web of one man’s momentary loss of concentration may be the next patient in the hospital wards, that is on the grounds that they survive at all. Recent research findings indicate that a driver who indulges in the use of phone while driving is worse, in terms of his response to an accident, than one who has alcohol above the approved legal limit. Even the use of Bluetooth headset which enables you hold the steering with hands would not alter the fact that you will be severely distracted. The use of hands-free according to the Transport Research Laboratory makes drivers four times more likely to have an accident with concentration levels reduced for 10 minutes after the call had ended. The report indicates that drivers making hands-free calls have slower reaction times than those above the legal limit.

Fatigue
Do you know that globally fatigue remains a hidden killer? Many have died in the name of tyre burst, speed, dangerous overtaking when in actual fact the real factor may have been fatigue that was ignored as nothing serious. What really is fatigue? Rogets’ New Thesaurus defines fatigue as the condition of being extremely tired. A combination of any of the following warning signs means the driver is becoming fatigued: yawning, eyes feeling sore or heavy, vision starting to blur, day-dreaming, thinking of everything else but not driving, not concentrating, becoming impatient, reactions seem slow, speed creeps up and down, making poor gear changes, wandering over the centre lines or onto the road edge, feeling stiff or cramped, you seeing things, you feel hungry or thirsty, you have difficulty keeping your head up or eyes open, you hear a droning or humming in your ears, you don’t notice a vehicle until it overtakes you. When you see these signs, please don’t ignore them. Don’t plead the blood or start binding the devil. Once fatigue sets in, there is little you can do about it except to stop as soon as possible and take a break. Fatigue is caused by lack of sleep. Alcohol and some medications can also cause sleepiness. Although the need for sleep varies among individuals, sleeping eight hours in a 24-hour period is common. The effect of sleep loss builds up. Regularly losing 1 to 2 hours of sleep a night can create a sleep debt and lead to chronic sleepiness over time. Just being in bed doesn’t mean a person has had enough sleep. Disrupted sleep has the same effect as lack of sleep. Illness, noise and activity can interrupt and reduce the amount and quality of sleep.

Road Accident Immunity Delusion Syndrome (RAIDS)
RAIDS is a deadly disease that afflicts you when you disobey traffic rules and regulations; when your vehicle is not properly maintained; when you exude over exuberance and arrogance; when you are over confident behind the wheels; when you depend on charms for survival when driving and when you do not have consideration for other road users. You must therefore note these and take the necessary precautions such as ensuring your vehicle is well maintained, that you respect other road users and comply with all traffic regulations, amongst others.

Defensive driving
Defensive driving is a form of training that goes beyond mastery of the rules of the road and the basic mechanics of driving. It aims at reducing risk of driving by anticipating dangerous situations, despite adverse conditions or mistakes of others. It identifies others as mad while you are the only sane person on the road. “I never saw him” is the most common excuse heard after a crash. Virtually all collisions involved inattention on the part of one or both drivers.

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