My neighbour knocked over a Pride of India tree on my sidewalk and demolished part of my garden wall with her Fiat 500. It was like being attacked by a yuppie skateboard. Her oversized sheepskin slippers got caught between accelerator and brake and that caused the trouble. No-one was hurt, but . . .
When we think of what causes accidents, we rightly jump right into drunk and reckless driving and speeding. So we don’t do those things, yet we still see or have accidents. Like my neighbour. Let’s look at some of the common causes of accidents.
Let’s continue with footwear. Your feet are as busy as your hands and eyes when you drive, but how many of us think about that? Slippers or beach thongs are dicey because they can slip off your feet or hook on the pedals. Heavy boots on the other hand diminish sensitivity, and this can lead to a heavy foot on the gas or brake at the wrong time. It’s like steering with boxing gloves.
Eating or drinking
Many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip said the old people. Old people knew stuff. Okay, they suck at tech, but they know stuff like your car is not a dining room. Just reaching for your muffin is distracting. This is multiplied if you drop your egg mayo. And hot coffee in your lap takes the situation to Defcon-4 in a moment.
Driving a car is operating a heavy machine. Lots of medication, including antihistamines and painkillers, specifically warn about this. If it causes drowsiness, it has the same effect as alcohol. And drowsiness takes us to the next topic.
Driving while tired
There are two dangers to driving when tired. Firstly, after a long day or night, your reactions slow down and you can see where that can go wrong. But on a longer trip, fatigue has a more devious effect. You settle down in your seat, find the most comfortable position. The telephone poles tick past rhythmically – flick, flick. Trust me, you don’t want to wake up because you are suddenly driving on gravel. Driver fatigue is such a thing that many new cars have systems that track your eyes and beep you if you start nodding off. If you are tired and you have to drive, stop often and run around the car a couple of times.
Have you ever sat in rush hour with the guy behind you texting and nearly crashing into you every time the traffic stops? It gets worse at speed. And texting is just an extreme example of in-car tech distraction. Anything that takes your eyes off the road for a couple of seconds should be avoided. If you are going at 60 and you fiddle with the radio for three seconds, you would have travelled blind for nearly fifty metres – half a rugby field. But even if you don’t look down, you are still distracted and this will affect your reaction time.
The bottom line is common sense. Your car is a large object travelling at speed in the same space as other fast, large objects and slow, soft, irrational creatures called pedestrians. Eliminate anything that could result in you crashing into any of the above, and you will immediately be a better driver.
For more tips about looking after your car and better driving, keep up with our blog.