How to stay safe on the road and what to do if you have an accident

Despite advances in technology and enhanced safety features on cars, there continues to be thousands of road traffic accidents every year.

According to the Department for Transport, in 2015 there were 1,730 reported deaths on the road while 22,144 people were seriously injured. However, many of these accidents would be preventable with a little extra care.

 With this in mind, we’ve put together some useful tips to help you stay safe on the roads, and advice on what to do if you are involved in an accident.

Drive ‘defensively’

Defensive driving is a set of skills used by motor vehicle drivers to consciously reduce potential dangers when out on the road.

Drivers anticipate risky scenarios and have a heightened state of awareness about everything that is going on around them. Be it weather conditions or the actions of another motorist, they develop habits that enable them to act before it’s too late.

Defensive drivers prepare for the unexpected and are alert to their surroundings. It involves actions such as not expecting other drivers to do what they think they should, maintaining adequate spacing and keeping theri eyes moving.

Watch your speed

Driving at a safe speed may seem obvious but it’s one of the main factors in fatal road accidents. It’s all too easy to creep above the speed limit but  there are good reasons for speed limits being what they are.

According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA), around two thirds of all crashes in which people are killed or injured happen on roads with a speed limit of 30 mph or less. They also state that a driver travelling at 35 mph is twice as likely to kill someone as they are at 30 mph – proof of how important it is to stick to the limit.

Rural roads in particular can be risky with blind bends and sharp turns so take extra care and take your time. Don’t ever feel pressurised to drive faster than you feel comfortable with – stick to the limit and stay safe.

Ignore your phone

Using your mobile phone while driving is illegal and in March this year, tougher penalties were introduced. A driver caught using their mobile phone will now be fined £200 and be given six points on their licence.

However, it’s not just using a phone that can lead to distractions. From sat-navs to loud music, it only takes a second for your concentration to be diverted and for disaster to strike.  Stay aware and focused on the road ahead.

Check your time of travel

The time of day you travel can impact safety on the roads. It’s no surprise that rush hour is one of the most dangerous times to travel, and studies have revealed that tiredness after a few hours of night driving has the same effect as being over the drink-driving limit.

When tired, your reaction times slow and quality of your decision making is affected – two components that are essential for safe driving.

Avoid harsh movements

Harsh acceleration and braking can not only put yourself at danger but also other drivers around you. Keep your movements smooth and give yourself enough space and time so as to avoid sudden jerky reactions. 

Smooth driving can also help to make your driving more eco-friendly and save money on fuel.

Maintain a safe distance

Keeping a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front gives you more stopping and thinking time and a better chance to react if you spot danger ahead. It also causes less brake wear and fuel consumption.

If a car behind you is travelling too closely, increase the space between your car and the vehicle in front. This will allow you to slow down over a greater distance and give the driver behind more time to react.

Wear the correct footwear

From high heels to flip flops, wearing the wrong shoes can affect the grip and control you have over the pedals which could lead to a collision. If you’re likely to be dashing out of the house in unpractical footwear, keep a pair of flat, well-fitting shoes in your car.

It is not illegal in the UK to drive barefoot or in flip flops, but the rule is that you must to be able to operate the controls properly. And it is not recommended - the Driving Standards Agency stating that ‘suitable shoes are particularly important behind the wheel. We would not recommend driving barefoot because you don’t have the same braking force with bare feet as you do with shoes on.”

If you do have an accident....

It’s not a pleasant thought but despite our best efforts, sometimes road traffic accidents do occur.

If this happens to you, here’s what to do next:

  1. No matter how small the accident you must stop. Failing to do so is an offence under the Road Traffic Act.
  2. Ensure the engine is no longer running, turn your hazard lights on and if you are carrying passengers, check they are not hurt.
  3. If there are any casualties or if you suspect foul play, call the police immediately and wait for them to arrive at the scene.
  4. Give your details to anyone else involved but do not accept blame or apologise as this may be used against you at a later date. If you crash into a parked car leave your details on the windscreen.
  5. Report the accident to the police within 24 hours. Not doing so could result in penalty points, a fine or disqualification.
  6. Collect the personal details from drivers and witnesses involved including names and phone numbers. If possible take down the registration number, colour, make and model of the other vehicle involved. If you have a mobile phone, you may find it useful to take photographs of the crash and make a note of the driving conditions that day.
  7. If anyone tries to leave the scene without exchanging details call 999 immediately.