Doc­tor urges road users to be safe

Midwest Times - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

Dr An­thony Ren­gel

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