Doctor urges road users to be safe
The accident on Indian Ocean Road on December 9 is a tragic reminder of the dangers faced on our country roads.
Already 97 people have lost their lives on WA’s regional roads this year and as we head into the holiday season it is expected this number will rise.
Here are my tips to stay safe over the summer break.
Fatigue is responsible for 22 per cent of all country road accidents. If you are sleep deprived, work shifts, take medication that causes drowsiness or driving for extended periods, you significantly increase your risk of an accident. Consider delaying your trip until you are rested, take regular stops and share the driving load.
Some people continue to ignore this message, with alcohol involved in about 7 per cent of all accidents. Even if you were drunk the night before and tried to sleep it off, alcohol can still be in your system over 12 hours later, disturbing your sleep and concentration. Not to mention the effects of a hangover. If in any doubt, delay your trip, rehydrate and depart once you are fully recovered.
Modern vehicles are filled with gadgets to protect you but also to distract you. Using a phone while driving increases your risk of a fatal accident by four. Set your devices before heading off and then leave them alone. Your social media will still be there when you arrive. If you need to change your destination or music, pull over and stop before doing so.
Ensure your car has been recently serviced with fluids, and that your tyres, brakes and suspension are in good condition before leaving. A well-serviced car will handle optimally and may be able to avoid an accident altogether.
It is important to also know your vehicle’s performance limits. If you are planning to tow a trailer or caravan, ensure that when loaded it does not exceed the rated towing capacity.
Speeding is responsible for 18 per cent of serious accidents. At higher speed, you will have less reaction time and hit objects with greater force — increasing your risk of lifethreatening injury. Travelling 10km above the speed limit can increase your braking distance by up to 20 per cent while only shaving a few minutes off your travel time — it is simply not worth it.
It is also important you follow the markings. Overtaking on double lines is illegal at best and deadly in the worst case. If in doubt or not confident on broken lines, wait for an overtaking lane.
While there is little wet weather in summer, windy days and extreme heat can affect driving. If you are towing a caravan, take caution when there is a strong forecast wind and slow down to reduce your risk of rollover. In the middle of summer, temperatures over 35 degrees and high UV ratings can increase your risk of dehydration and sunburn, even with air-conditioning and window tinting. Stay hydrated and take regular breaks as needed.
Breakdowns and accidents still occur even with the best intentions. If travelling through remote areas carry extra water and food — it could save your life. Spare oil, radiator coolant, tools and serviceable spare tires can save an expensive tow home. A wellstocked first aid kit can also come in handy, particular if you are the first person to come across an accident and need to assist one of your fellow travellers.