Safety Skills


Action After An Accident
Advanced and Defensive Driver Development training is everything about building upon current driving skills and experience to such an extent that we significantly minimise the risk of getting involved in other driver’s accidents. Rather than rely on the limited skills of other drivers, WE now become responsible for the safety of our passengers, ourselves and our vehicle.

A colleague recently asked me, “Alan, do you believe then that ALL accidents are avoidable?” As 95% of all car crashes are due to driver error, I suppose the simple answer is “NO!!”

If you are unfortunately then involved in a crash, hopefully, whatever ‘Passive’ safety systems (e.g. Seat Belts, Air Bags, Impact Protection Systems, etc) there may be in your car have done their job and you and any passengers are uninjured.

Use your hazard warning lights to warn other traffic and ask other drivers to switch off their engines and stop smoking. Move uninjured people away from the vehicles to safety and do not move injured people from their vehicles unless they are in immediate danger from fire or explosion. Be prepared to give first aid.

Two emergency items you may well wish to carry in your car and easily available from motorist shops are:
A Fire Extinguisher – check it is easily accessible and serviceable.
A Life Hammer – a small, red plastic hammer housing both a tungsten steel tip to break into toughened glass (side windows and rear screen usually) and a safety blade to cut through seat belt webbing to release occupants who may be trapped.

If any party is injured the Police and Emergency Services must be contacted, however, onlookers may well have already done this, especially if the accident is causing traffic congestion. If it is a
low speed ‘shunt’ accident with no serious damage or injuries, rather than having an argument in the middle of the road as to whose fault it was, causing congestion and high risk to yourselves and other road users, just drive your vehicles to a safe area and exchange details there.

If you are involved in an accident which causes damage or injury to any other person, vehicle, animal or property, you must and are legally required to STOP!

Exchange names, addresses, registration numbers and insurance companies. If you do not do this, the accident must be reported to the police, as soon as possible and within 24 hours

Take a look at the Highway Code (a very readable little book these days!) Rules 255 to 261, for an excellent and comprehensive guide to actions.

Action After A Breakdown
Why is it that some drivers, when they’re breaking down, brake sharply and stop right in the middle of the road or lane creating congestion and mayhem for the rest of us motorists? Why do I ask the question? Well I feel sure that in many cases, the momentum of the vehicle and/or the downhill slope of the road could have easily been used for the driver to pull up somewhere safe off the carriageway!

That’s got that out of my system!!

Again, the Highway Code gives sound advice. If your vehicle breaks down, get it off the road if possible and put your hazard warning lights on to warn of any obstruction. If it’s dark put your sidelights on and don’t stand between your vehicle and oncoming traffic.

If you are breaking down on the motorway, try to get your vehicle to ‘limp’ to the next exit or service area. Why? Because the hard shoulder is the most dangerous place to be on the motorway! Even though motorways are the safest roads in the UK, there are more fatalities on the hard shoulder than any of the other three lanes!

If you have broken down on the hard shoulder, try to stop near an emergency telephone with your wheels turned to the left, and use it. If you can’t stop near the phone, walk to one by following the arrows on the white posts with blue tops on the hard shoulder. It’s free, goes straight through to police emergency control and, as you call, your exact location will be known. Give full details (let them know if you are a lone woman) then await the breakdown service but position yourself near your vehicle but well away from the carriageway and hard shoulder.

Again, take a look at the Highway Code (still a very readable little book!) Rules 248 to 254, for an excellent and comprehensive guide to actions.

Mobile Phones
Think of all the people, family and friends you know and you can probably count on less than one hand those who do not use a mobile phone. It’s the biggest communication revolution in the last 10 years! We want to be accessible to others and that includes the time when we are driving our cars, however this can compromise safety!

Active mobile phone conversation when driving is a like counting to 100 out loud and writing the alphabet at the same time. You’ll do neither particularly well! Concentration is split between the two activities so not only is driving skill reduced but you often don’t have a good conversation with a changing signal strength (“hang on, you’re breaking up!!”, type comments) or frustratingly, complete signal loss!

Is it illegal to drive when using a mobile phone? Even though there is no specific law, you will be prosecuted for ‘Driving Without Due Care and Attention’ or ‘Careless Driving’ if found ‘juggling’ with a phone and driving one-handed. A crash may well result in more serious charges. So what can you do?

Give yourselves a break and use the mobile phone stopped in a safe place, a lay-by or parking area. You may think it looks cool to be on the phone when driving, until you’re mentally distracted and run into something solid! But what do I hear you say? That happens to other drivers! It wont happen to me! Well you may be lucky, but you’ll be 10 times more likely to crash ‘phone-driving’!!

Sleep Driving
Apart from Ibiza, ‘Clubbing’ has not quite become a 24 hour activity in Britain, but it might! Imagine an ‘all-nighter’ Friday night and Saturday night then without making up sleep, driving a distance to work Monday. Could you stay awake? Would you be alert to drive?

Whether you are into clubbing, surfing the Web or insomnia, Sleep Driving, due to sleep deprivation, is the cause of more car crashes than Drink Driving or Drug Driving. Sleep driving accidents often result in tragic consequences as they usually occur on fast roads and the driver neither swerves nor brakes to avoid the crash.

If you are male and aged 18-30 you are at higher risk of sleep driving than any other group. However, all drivers are at risk and more so between 2am to 6am and 2pm to 4pm. It’s also not easy to stay awake when it’s Winter, the heater is on and passengers in the car are snoring away in the land of dreams in the early hours!

So what can you do to avoid sleep driving. Well, there is no real substitute for proper sleep. A high-energy drink is only a very temporary pick-you-up. Stop as soon as conveniently and legally possible and have a proper rest break of up to 20 minutes. Get off the road altogether, ideally into a service area with a safe car park. Stretch your legs and visit the shops for drinks and food.


Speed Control
At the risk of being controversial, I want to approach this topic with the following statement: SPEED KILLS – Does it? Speed alone is not the problem!!

We go on holiday and fly at over 550mph! Japan has 200+mph trains!Michael Schumacher drives at 180+mph on race circuits! BUT, he obeys the 120kph (72mph) speed limit in the pit lane during the Formula One Grand Prix race to avoid a 10 second Stop/Go penalty. So why has this speed limit been introduced? In a word – SAFETY!

Imagine this. You’re driving past your local Junior school, it’s 3.30pm on a Wednesday afternoon in term time, the end of lessons bell has gone off and all the children are running out onto the pavement for the school bus and parent’s cars. It’s a 30mph limit. Is it safe to drive towards this situation at 30mph? NO!! Maybe 12mph or less is the only safe speed for the 200 metres and 45 seconds or so, it will take to handle this situation safely!

Imagine this. Same stretch of road as above but now it’s 2.15am in the early hours of a Thursday morning with no pedestrians, no ‘clubbers’, no traffic and no hazards. We could debate that maybe 45 or 50mph is now a ‘safe’ speed. Problem is there’s a speed camera on this stretch and it’s set at 35mph and you will end up with another kind of STOP/GO penalty – STOP at the local Magistrates Court and GO get fined with 3 points on your driving licence!

What’s the point I’m making. It’s not speed that’s the problem! It’s drivers using speed at the wrong place and at the wrong time – that’s the problem!! Whatever the speed limit, as drivers, we must always drive to the hazard level. What does that mean? Have a look at Rule 105 in the Highway Code: ‘Always drive at a speed that will allow you to stop well within the distance you can see to be clear.’

Why do drivers slow down when they see a Police vehicle? Not always because they are speeding. Often they don’t know what the speed limit is for that stretch of road because they didn’t look for the speed limit change sign (situated on both sides of the road).

Enjoying driving performance cars on British roads with high levels of safety requires skill. Skill way beyond that required to pass the UK driving test. Seek Advanced Driving training and stay safe!

Drink, Drugs and Driving
As members of the modern human race, we love to socialise! We love to go out and meet up with friends in pubs and clubs and have a great night out! We want to relax, lose those inhibitions and get away from all those constraints, disciplines, rules and regulations imposed upon us during the weekday work/home routine. Perfectly understandable!

Alcohol is a drug easily used as a key ingredient to a brilliant night out and many can actually remember what else made it so good!! As qualified drivers we all passed a basic test. This test did NOT cover driving at night, driving with your mates talking away (loudly, because they’ve all had a drink!) in the car, driving under some influence of alcohol, not necessarily excessive, and driving at speed round your favourite bend in the wet.

Alcohol affects your driving judgement and abilities, creates a false sense of confidence, reduces co-ordination and increases your reaction time, affects judgement of speed, distance, risk and reduces your driving skill, even if you are below the legal limit. So, it doesn’t affect much then!!

Imagine you are a rear passenger in the car above, with the driver approaching his favourite bend. Oh, by the way, that afternoon he had been playing Monaco Grand Prix on his Playstation at home and he’s told you he now knows all about how to take a bend properly!! What odds will you give yourself for survival now?

This is perhaps one of the most difficult things I could ask you to do, especially if you too have had a drink and are on a high from the night out. Please, don’t get in the car with a driver, even if it’s a good friend, who you suspect is under the influence of excessive alcohol and/or drugs, which could possibly still be there from the night before!! Why should you place your life in their unskilled hands? Why not take their cars keys away for their own sake?

We are all individuals with varying physiological make-ups! The influence of different levels and types of alcohol and drugs, even prescribed ones, or indeed a mix of both, is really an unknown. Now I am not suggesting that all qualified drivers should never drink alcohol, never take doctors prescribed medicines or, if you are inclined, venture into other substances.
What I do ask you to do is “PLEASE, DON’T DRIVE!” Just arrange for a taxi or use another means of transport.

OK, now the serious stuff. What does the law say? It says:
‘You MUST NOT drive under the influence of drugs or medicine’
‘You MUST NOT drive with a breath alcohol level higher than 35
microgrammes per 100 ml or a blood alcohol level of more than 80 mg per 100 ml.

There are more drink/drive fatalities in Summer than Winter, even including Christmas. Why? Warm weather creates thirst. Dryer roads and extended daylight hours tempt drivers to drive!

When you’re driving, look out for the driving behaviour of other motorists which suggests they may well be under the influence of drink or drugs. Position to keep well away from their potential crash!

If You Drink, Please Don’t Drive!

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