The number of deaths that occurred on Irish roads in 2017 was 30% less than the year before. Although this is a welcome statistic, there are still 157 Irish families who are missing someone from the dinner table each evening. We need to work towards eliminating road deaths altogether.
In 2017 there was also a 6% increase in the volumes of traffic around the country. With increased volume and often unchanged infrastructure it is more important than ever that we drive safely to avoid collisions. We have compiled some tips for driving safely depending on the conditions:
Defensive driving is an advanced technique used to help you protect yourself from accidents caused by other drivers, weather or other hazards.
Advanced driving expert Colm Branigan, said defensive driving is “how you fit in with other drivers on the road and having an ability to anticipate what they might do next and take action based on this”.
Tips for driving defensively include:
o Ensure your tyres are in good order. Your tyres are the only contact your vehicle has with the ground. If they are worn, your chances of being able to stop quickly in an emergency are reduced. Don’t take the risk. Buy new tires from a reputable brand and check them regularly for ware.
o Check your lights: front, rear and fog. Ideally have a second person outside the car while you test all the lights on your car. You could be driving around for some time without a brake light and not even know. The RSA recommend checking your lights once a week and before any long journey.
o Check your wipers, if they aren’t clearing the screen sufficiently, have them changed or change them yourself, as car maintenance jobs go, it isn’t too difficult.
o Carry essentials, ensure your car has everything needed to change a tyre, jump leads and a basic first aid kit. It is also useful to have water and nonperishable snacks in case you get stuck in unexpectedly poor weather.
Our temperate climate means there is rarely a shortage of rain in Ireland. Although most of us are used to driving in wet weather, the kind of rain we are getting is changing. We are having more torrential downpours with flooding more of a problem around the country.
To drive safely in wet weather:
• Monitor the weather: stay up to date with the weather and plan your journey accordingly. If the forecast is particularly bad postpone or cancel travel by road.
• Slow down: as with any weather event, slow down when it rains because your car will be much slower to react on wet roads.
• Leave extra space between your car and the car in front: the two second rule, mentioned above, should change to four seconds in wet weather.
• Stay on main roads: main roads are less likely to flood however in addition to rain, there is likely to be a lot of spray from other vehicles which is why allowing extra distance is key.
• If you aquaplane, which is where your tyre’s lose grip and the car skids on the surface of the water, try not to panic, take your food off the accelerator and allow the car to slow down itself. Avoid the temptation to brake as this will most likely result in the car skidding.
• Avoid sharp steering or braking in wet weather as this may unbalance the car or cause it to skid.
• Avoid driving through floods but if you must, stay at the shallowest part and drive slowly but steadily through the water, causing as little splash as possible.
Once you are through the water, pump your brakes gently to dry them off.
You may only have to drive in fog a few times a year but when you do, there are certain precautions you need to take:
• Know how to turn on your fog light: turning fog lights on and off varies by car model so if you have changed your car recently, see if the location of your fog light has changed before you set out.
• Reduce your speed: driving at normal speeds in fog is exceptionally dangerous.
• Turn on your lights: if fog is not too dense, you may only need to turn on your dipped lights to be seen.
• Use your fog light if necessary: if visibility reduces below one hundred meters, use your fog light.
• Listen for oncoming traffic: if visibility is very poor, roll down a window and listen for oncoming traffic
• Pull in: if conditions deteriorate further, find a safe spot to pull in and wait for the fog to clear.
• Switch off your fog lights: don’t forget to switch off your fog light as soon as conditions improve as the strong beam will dazzle oncoming traffic.
Driving in snow or ice is the riskiest driving someone can undertake. Think carefully before taking the car out in this kind of weather. If your journey is not essential, postpone it until the weather improves.
If you must drive there are some suggestions for safe driving in snow and ice:
• Clear your car completely before you attempt to drive.
• Slow down, although there are no hard and fast rules, it is estimated that at most you should be driving at half the speed limit.
• Anticipate black ice in sheltered and shaded areas or near high walls, be especially cautious driving in those areas.
• We have more tips for driving in winter if you need to find out more.