Just the other day, a nicely dressed young lady was risking her life to cross a 120 km speed-limit dual carriageway. Wearing prescribed glasses, medium heels shoes, and having her purse tightly against her chest, she was\ a potential road accident. I thought what if her glasses fall – she would try to recover them; what if the purse falls – she also would have tried to recover it.
In the last couple of months, several fatal road accidents took away parents, sisters, sons from people I know. It is a sad experience for those left behind gathering the pieces and bringing a sense to life.
Most of us spend lots of time on the road. We have to deal with weather conditions, visibility conditions, road rage, poor traffic coordination, inadequate road lighting, road works, pedestrians crossing major roads, lack of clear and proper signs – the list can go on.
The truth is, when we are comfortably sitting in our little bubble-driving seat, we feel empowered: These are the know-it-all, the competitor, the punisher, the avoider, and the escapee. Altruism and excitement seeking affect drivers all age groups. Then, it does not come as a surprise that car related accidents represent a serious issue for public health. The number of fatal and disabling road accidents increase, but in the end, they are just data.
The skills of driving a vehicle can show one’s personality, feelings, and uncertainties. One’s driving habits tell more about a person than ever imagined. With longer driving experience, drivers assess themselves as more fluent in handling the car, but they also lower the level of safety while driving. Braking too quickly, lapses of attention, trying to drive away from traffic lights, these consist of conscious and deliberate decisions to deviate from safe driving procedures. Many times, these ill practices have no association with a driver’s age – they are conscious violations.
In the last few decades, studies on personality traffic behaviour examined how drivers deal with their own feelings and how that affects their behaviour on the road. Apparently, a larger percentage of younger drivers are willing to take more risks than previous generations. This doesn’t come as a revelation.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), in a 2018 report pointed out that every year around the world 1.25 million people die because of a road traffic accident and, between 20 and 50 million more people are injured with many of them incurring a disability. Data shows that young and adult drivers account for 48 per cent of road traffic deaths worldwide.
However, driving skills are not the only aspects we should have in mind. Medical conditions do affect a driver’s abilities. Sleep deprivation, dizziness, and blurred vision can all affect a driver’s ability and safety levels. We can search for explanations, scientific studies, experts’ opinions- they all can provide us with some sense of understanding, but none would put the scattered pieces of a life together.
Road safety campaigns are essential and should continue to be used. However, new driving habits are surfacing. Regrettably, the new driving practices are often ignored. We need to develop new insights into the road user’s behaviour and behavioural modification. It is a big challenge.
Educational intervention has limitations; the same happens with awareness campaigns – they are good but don’t solve the problem. We have not even brushed the habit of using the mobile phone while driving, or not wearing a seat belt or the lack of child car seat. The same can be said about the number of traffic police patrols, the regulations, and laws. Each element would need a chapter in itself. None of the initiatives to educate people on road accidents would bring back the daughters, the sons, and the parents.
So many traffic patrols, laws, instructions, awareness campaigns and still…