Driving a car is serious business. In its 2013 Global Status Report on Road Safety, The World Health Organization indicates that over 1.2 million people die on roads around the world every year. Road traffic accidents are one of the leading causes of death worldwide, and automobiles are still by far the most dangerous form of transportation. Every year in Alberta, there are about 22,000 reported car accidents that result in injuries or death for one or more of the vehicle occupants. For every reported injury accident, there are many more that go unreported. Thankfully, fatalities from automobile accidents are on the decline. But whether you drive a car, truck, minivan, or SUV, there are some things you can do to stay safer on the road:
- Maintain a safe following distance from the car in front of you. Pick a landmark ahead such as a road sign, and as the vehicle in front of you passes it, count to 3. It should take 3 seconds for you to reach the landmark, and this will be a safe following distance. In poor conditions, increase the count to at least 6 seconds.
- Keep a lookout when entering intersections, even if you have a green light. Even if you have the right of way, you can avoid being hit by someone running a red light or stop sign if you’re alert and ready to respond.
- Avoid wearing high heels or loose shoes such as sandals or flip-flops when driving. These shoes may impair your ability to quickly move your foot from accelerator to brake, thereby increasing your reaction time. When it comes to car accidents, even fractions of a second can make a difference.
- In many jurisdictions, including Alberta, it is illegal to drive while talking on a cell phone, unless you’re using a hands-free device. But it’s as important to avoid other distractions, such as eating, drinking, smoking, using the radio or GPS, or dealing with children. If you find yourself heavily distracted or in a situation you must deal with immediately, it’s always best to find a safe spot to pull over, so that your attention isn’t diverted from the road.