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Road safety is the responsibility of every driver

Published on 11.08.2020

For decades now, governments have been endeavouring to improve road safety, especially the number of people killed and seriously injured. At the same time, car manufacturers are improving active and passive safety of vehicles all the time. And police checks are in the mix, too. And yet… A brief assessment reveals that the great majority of accidents are down to just a few causes, all of which can be addressed by drivers if they are willing to do their bit.

Throughout Europe, the primary cause of traffic accidents is - excessive - speed, especially when this doesn’t take account of conditions and circumstances: narrow, windy or wet road surfaces, tight bends, reduced visibility, vehicle load, children on board, etc.

And although the safety distance between two vehicles is only 2 seconds, plenty of drivers seem to have a problem keeping to it. This is the minimum distance for complying with article 141-1 of the French Highway Code, but it really should be 1 second longer when the road isn’t dry, just to be on the safe side.

Collisions in overtaking manoeuvres are often due to the fact that drivers misjudge the speed and/or distance away of the vehicle coming in the other direction, or are completely unaware of how much space you really need to overtake safely – a lot. Sometimes something unexpected happens, and the consequences haven’t even been considered, seriously compromising the manoeuvre. Overtaking is definitely a complex and even complicated operation. Our advice: if in doubt, don’t do it!

Drivers need to be in good mental and physical shape to drive safely. No staying at the wheel when you’re tired until you nod off for 2, 3, or 4 seconds or even longer (!) while the car continues flying along. If this happens, there’s only one thing for it: take a break and have a nap, even if it’s only for half an hour. Using alcohol or other drugs slows driver reactions and distorts perception of the surroundings. And there is often a kind of euphoria that makes the driver over-estimate their ability, encouraging them to take risks. Likewise, if a driver is in a foul mood, they’re not really in possession of all their faculties. This makes them hyper-sensitive to the slightest ‘bad’ behaviour from other road users, and all their frustration comes out in dangerous aggression.

And then there’s the driver attitude. A certain empathic mindset allows us to understand the many different situations arising as soon as we are at the wheel. It enables us to anticipate the behaviour of other road users in any given situation. And it’s precisely this ability to anticipate that often prevents drivers from getting into a conflict situation themselves. It comes from experience and consideration and is the polar opposite of the aggressive ‘me first’ attitude.

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