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Road Accidents. How Do They Happen?

Road Accidents. How Do They Happen?

It is probably fair to say that a good proportion of readers have had a car accident. Even when nobody is hurt there is still that cold chill as you hear the dreaded crump sound at the same time as feeling the jolt. Once you’ve regained your equilibrium, your mind starts to race across all the hassles and inconveniences that are to follow. What went wrong?

There has been a mass of evidence analysed by the Institute of Advanced Motorists and unexpected findings have resulted. Surprisingly, given the popularity of the argument, speeding is a relatively unimportant factor in the 600 or so daily accidents where someone is injured or killed. In fact, exceeding the speed limit accounted for only around 14% of the total number of accidents with fatalities. A bigger cause is going too quickly for the conditions. Entering a bend too fast, for example, may not mean that the driver was exceeding the speed limit.

No, the biggest cause of accidents on today’s roads is ‘driver error or reaction’. This is what is noted by police in 65% of fatal crashes and covers a multitude of sins, but not speeding. Complacency seems to be responsible for the highest ‘excuse’ – ‘I didn’t look properly’. Following that is ‘loss of control’ which is considered to mean that the driver had nowhere else to go when, say, entering a bend too quickly. Poor manoeuvres, general behaviour, inexperience, errors of judgement – failing to anticipate other drivers’ actions – or simply disobeying road signs are all covered by the umbrella term. Then, of course, there’s driving under the influence of drink or drugs. It seems that outside influences – slippery roads, potholes and the like – account for a very small percentage.

A critical issue that is on-going is the attitude of road users to pedestrians and vice versa. Where a pedestrian only is a casualty it is due to either party ‘failing to look properly’. Motorists can be distracted by, say, the sun or a dirty windscreen, and fail to see someone stepping innocently off a kerb but equally those on foot could be just as preoccupied. Other bits and pieces like criminal activity or vehicle defects account for a smaller percentage, around 3%.

The message is clear. It isn’t the road conditions or your car, it’s you. It sounds a bit trite but men are likely to be ‘careless, reckless or in a hurry’ whilst women are more likely to be ‘inexperienced’! Older drivers will fail to look properly and younger ones are going too fast, so nothing changes. Hey! Don’t shoot the messenger!

Small errors have big consequences. Keep it in mind.

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