Get ready for Road Safety Week

Ever arrived at your destination after a lengthy drive with no recollection whatsoever of the journey you’ve just completed? You feel like you’ve been on autopilot the whole time – which is comforting in one way, because it suggests your instincts and reflexes must be in pretty good shape. But in another it means your mind has either been wandering or it’s been switched off completely. And that’s a worry. What if someone had pulled out of a side road in front of you, or stepped off the kerb? Would you have snapped out of your daydream and reacted in time?
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We all like to think we’re capable drivers. Indeed, there are numerous surveys out there where the vast majority of respondents insist they are better drivers than anyone else on the road. But we can’t all be right. And even those of us who are, by any objective measure, decent drivers (you’ll note I’m happily including myself in this category) will not be perfect. Even the best of us can all too easily be distracted. Whether it’s trying to control screaming kids in the back, rushing to get somewhere on time, changing the radio station, wrestling with a pasty wrapper or looking at the SatNav, many of us are guilty of losing concentration while we’re driving, potentially endangering our own and others’ lives.

Road Safety Week 2013

That’s what this year’s Road Safety Week, organised by road safety charity Brake, is all about. The week, which takes place from November 18th -24th, focuses on the theme of tuning in and concentrating on driving rather than allowing ourselves to be distracted when we’re behind the wheel. Being distracted might sound trivial, but the consequences can be deadly. According to reports from the Department of Transport, driver distraction is one of the major causes of death and serious injury in the UK. Making a conscious effort to stay focused can help ensure you don’t make careless mistakes or miss hazards which could otherwise have been avoided. But the ‘tuning in’ message isn’t just targeted at drivers. It’s aimed at all road users, whether they are walking, cycling, running or skating, so that everyone gives full attention to the task they are doing in order to prevent accidents. Brake’s tips to stay safe include always keeping your phone switched off while you are driving so you avoid the temptation to check messages or answer calls, and not plugging in headphones if you are jogging or walking on roads. Eating or smoking at the wheel can also cause accidents, so try to keep two hands on the wheel and avoid ‘multi-tasking.’

Get involved

We can all do our own bit to raise awareness about road safety and, if you want to get involved, you can register at the website www.roadsafetyweek.org.uk. Upon registering, you will be e-mailed a free action pack which includes downloadable posters, web banners and examples of activities you can run during Road Safety Week. There are also Road Safety Week balloons, banners, T-shirts and other resources, some of which are free, from Brake’s shop at www.brake.org.uk/shop. If you need further encouragement to get involved, then take a moment to consider that last year, 1,754 people were killed in road accidents. More than 23,000 people were injured, and there were 17,251 child casualties. Road death is the number one killer of young people aged 16 – 24, and the second biggest killer of under 15s, according to the Office for National Statistics. If you are committed to staying safe on the roads, then you should make the Brake pledge at Brake’s website www.brake.org.uk. As a driver, this means you will always stay under road speed limits and slow down to 20mph around schools homes and shops, and avoid over-taking. You must also pledge never to drive after drinking any alcohol or drugs, to make sure everyone is belted up on every journey, never to take or make calls or texts while driving, to get your eyes tested regularly and to reduce the amount you drive wherever possible. It’s a good idea to check out which roads you will be travelling on whenever you are about to embark on a long journey too, as certain roads are much more dangerous than others. For example, according to a report earlier this year from the Road Safety Foundation (www.roadsafetyfoundation.org) the stretch of the A537 between Macclesfield and Buxton is the most dangerous stretch of road in the country, with 85 crashes that have resulted in death or serious injury over the past decade. Other dangerous roads include the A5012 road that runs between Pikehall and Cromford in Derbyshire, and the A809 heading north west out of Glasgow, so motorists should be particularly vigilant in these areas. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that the fewer the distractions, the safer you will be on the roads. So the next time you’re tempted to reach for your mobile or to change CDs at 70mph, think again. It could just save your life.

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