Road safety tips: Why driving safely matters

Each year several lives are taken not just by catastrophic natural calamities or warzone destruction, but by motor accidents that happen right in front of our eyes, often on the roads we travel every day



By George Kuruvilla

Published: Fri 18 Feb 2022, 1:37 PM

Nothing quite hits you like the loss of a loved one. It can be one of the most painful experiences with lifelong emotional and physiological implications. Each year several lives are taken not just by catastrophic natural calamities or warzone destruction, but by motor accidents that happen right in front of our eyes, often on the roads we travel every day.

This week, we look at road behaviours that can lead to these accidents, accidents by the numbers and what kind of safety features to look out for when buying a car.

Driving behaviour

Once, while I was driving down SZR, I saw a guy steer his big SUV while talking on his cellphone, smoking a cigarette, and eating a shawarma… all at the same time. Regardless of how good a driver he thought he may have been, this sort of behaviour is beyond reckless, and it simply means that he does not respect the physics involved in moving a 2-ton vehicle, neither does he care for the lives of other motorists.

Now people like you and I aren’t that guy and won’t even attempt such a stunt. But that doesn’t mean that our everyday driving behaviour is safe and by the book. Here are some of the usual suspects that can lead to motor vehicle accidents that we need to be aware of.

Careless lane changing is one of the biggest culprits and it comes as no surprise. Now I understand that it can be hard for some. Varying speed of vehicles around you, erratic drivers and oversized SUVs that most of us aren’t equipped to handle make this process harder than it is. And that is exactly why it requires our utmost attention every time we move across those lane markers.

Tailgating is another stunt that many of the youth and speedsters like to engage in to impose their inflated egos on the tarmac. The act of driving right up behind another car without leaving safe distance puts everyone at risk of a collision and also adds to the confusion of an already busy road. We suggest that even if you are driving on the left lane at the speed limit, move over for faster traffic especially when they come flashing or honking behind you.

But the most dangerous of antic of them all is speeding! Sure, the manufacturers these days are gloating about their latest vehicles with 300, 400 and even 600 horsepower. And you, as an owner, feel obliged to express that number in the real world, besides just boasting about it on social media. But be reminded that public roads aren’t a place to exhibit speed, there are designated areas for that. Instead, for a couple hundred dirhams, you can book a track a day at the Dubai Autodrome or the Yas Marina F1 track.

The biggest distraction of them all is the cell phone. Now I know a lot of people love to blame technology and cell phones especially, but the power lies within one’s own conscience. Know that it is okay to ignore calls over the duration of a drive. It is also okay to not be updated with the latest Instagram feeds on the drive home.

Once you have an accident, the temporary roadblock you’ve created can also be dangerous for fellow motorists. If it is a minor incident, pull over to the side of the road so that you don’t hinder traffic. It also gives you and other parties involved a safe place to wait, till the police or emergency services arrive.

Road accident statistics

Here is a lowdown on the numbers released by the Dubai Traffic Prosecution pertaining to road accidents. In 2021, 70 defendants were accused of causing a fatal accident and had to appear in Dubai traffic court — a 20 per cent increase from the 58 defendants in 2020.

As for life endangerment, some 42 cases were registered in 2021, up from 38 in 2020. Also, 112 motorists were charged with driving under the influence of substance in 2021, 18 counts more than last year. A total of 695 motorists also had their driver’s licences suspended in 2021, a significant increase as compared to 412 in the previous year. And finally, the total number of traffic cases handled by prosecutors in 2021 was a staggering 11,567 cases, up from 7,371 in 2020.

Safety features to look out for when buying a vehicle

It is not just what’s under the hood and retail price that should matter when you are purchasing a brand-new vehicle or a used one. The kind of safety equipment you are getting with your new set of wheels should also get equal weightage.

Airbags! There are airbags for the head, knees, shoulder etc. The more, the better. It is possible that in the lifetime of the vehicle they may never be deployed. Regardless of that, it is important to have them.

While drum brakes do the job, having disc brakes provide significantly better stopping power, which translates to fewer collisions. The larger the discs and the more the pistons that engage with them all contribute to this improved performance.

If you have a child or children in your family, make sure the vehicle has ISOFIX points to mount child seats. Also, ensure the child seats themselves are suitable for their age, weight and height.

Most cars, even some of their base models, come with a rear-view camera feature. The camera, combined with parking sensors, makes for a safer

parking experience. And even if they don’t come as standard equipment, you can always get them fitted at a local workshop.

There are many more such features like blind spot monitoring system and lane departure warning and prevention system etc. to look out for, but we shall leave it up to you, the responsible motorist, to see if all your safety needs are met.

In conclusion, let me tell you what my dad used to tell me, “Drive safe to drive long”.

wknd@khaleejtimes.com


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