Polishing our driving manners to avoid bad crash (1)

IMG_3156The road is a public facility of which the entire and generalpublic have access. For, transport is the sine qua non for the socio-economic and political development of any country. The paradox that we are confronted with is the fact that, road transport and other modes of transport negate benefits that are to be reaped through the use of the means and equipment of transport on the account of crashes that occur within the modes.

The focus of this article is on road transport. The purpose of the article is to disseminate information, create and raise the levels of awareness on what we can collectively do whilst driving or using the road so that the agenda set by the National Road Safety Commission is achieved.

After passing the driving test and obtaining the driver’s license, many of us consider driving as an easy task. On the contrary driving on the road and public place is a complex activity and demands planning, observation, concentration, consideration, courtesy and anticipation.

Such skills are not easy to acquire but only through commitment and dedication to the task of driving and the continuous thoughts and pursuit of the goal to be a good driver. If driving is easy, how come about 1.2 million people are killed each year in road crashes around theworld? In Ghana, recent figures indicate that more than 2,000 people are killed annually on the road.

The figures reveal that killing somebody or being killed in road crash is obviously too easy. In spite of the catastrophic number and the incalculable grief, most drivers still think that it will never happen to me because I am a good driver. This mental attitude is the basis of the wayand manner we drive and use the road.

A basic and important principle for safe driving is the adherence to mirror-signal-maneuver (MSM). How many of us adhere to this basic principle?

Quite a number of us do not signal before changing lanes or entering the road from the shoulder or the kerb. What often occurs is that drivers use the body of the vehicle to obtain space to change lanes.

Crashes and rear-end collision misses occur as a result of failure to look into the mirror, signal before changing lanes. Signal is a critical component of the basic principle which must not be ignored, refuse or fail to comply with. For signal is the medium through which your intention is communicated to the other road users.

Many modern vehicles have indicators on the exterior mirrors as well as the body of the vehicle. The reason being to ensure that information is unambiguously and completely communicated. Another basic principle in prevention of road crash is see and be seen, be seen and besafe. For if the other person you share the road with does not see you, you are not safe.

Late signaling is bad and unacceptable. It is inconsistent with characteristics of signaling. For signals must satisfy the following requirements, signal must be clear, given at the correct time, given on plenty of time and must be cancelled upon completion of the maneuver.

It is common to encounter a situation where driverssignal whenthey are about to make a turning making the other driver to stop suddenly. Drivers approaching turning at junctions either fail or refuse to signal that they are about to turn into the junction.

A driver at junction about to join the main road waits patiently as to the other driver’s intention only to find that the driver is making a turn. This attitude increases travel time for the other driver not to mention stress and emotional upset.

There are some of us who continuously refuse or fail to keep safe following distance between us and the lead vehicle. Keeping a safe following distance enables you to read the road ahead and give you sufficient time and space to either stop or swerve incase the vehicle ahead suddenly stops.

A number of rear end collisions occur on the road as a result of failure to keep and maintain a safe following distance. Some drivers argue that when they leave space other drivers may drive into the space.

You are better off to allow the driver to take the risk and still maintain the space. For if everything fail it is the space that would save you. As you read this piece, you might have come across scenes of rear-end collisions on the road.

Have you learnt your lesson? Many of us either refuse or fail to yield right of way at locations where road signs and road markings require of us to do so.

Those who once in a while drive on the Ring Road from Ako-Adjei interchange and make a right turning to join the Kanda Highway would encounter a situation where drivers driving under the bridge would compel you to stop even though road markings and road sign require them to yield right of way.

This attitude of drivers who are to yield right of way is encountered in many sections of the road where road authorities have provided the necessary signage but it is blatantly abused by drivers.

As you drive on the road, one comes across a situation or section of the road where traffic would merge or, in simple language, traffic from your right is about to join the road on which you are travelling. It is another risky situation and we need to know the rules in order to prevent and avoid road crash.

Traffic merging can be found on the N1 Highway and otherroads. What right of way belongs to the movingtraffic? Other drivers are not required to change lanes to allow vehicles to enter.

In case you decide to allow other vehicles to merge if it I safe, change lanes to allow the vehicle room to merge. You must check your mirrors and blind spots and use the turn signals if it is safe to change lanes. The bottom line is if it is safe to change lanes in order to allow traffic to merge throughdecelerating or accelerating.

What are some of the other acts and omissions we commit in the name of driving which contribute to the carnage on the road? Speeding coupled withshow-off and renderingthe road as race track.

If you ever share the road with vehicles that have been cleared from the Tema Port or other ports of entry and bearing DP and DV registration plates,their drivers want to tell you they are new on the road and their vehicles are faster than yours.

They tend to drive at nerve breaking speed. Speed it is said kills and the speed that thrills is the speed that kills. Some of the crashes that occur are as a result of excessive speed.

It is appropriate at this point to establish the relationship between excessive speed, crash, injuries and fatalities. There are natural laws that act on the vehicle and the driver and passengers. One of these laws is Kinetic Energy. Kinetic energy is defined as the energy of motion. The faster a vehicle moves the more energy it has. What then are some of the effectsof kinetic energy? The more energy a vehicle has it becomes difficult to control. At times a vehicle is thrown off the road into the bush. Both kinetic energy and centrifugal laws act on the vehicle. Kinetic energy increases as weight and speed increase. Further when the speed of a vehicle doubles it would need four times the distance to stop. The greater the speed, the greater the force of impact as a result of collision and the severity the injuries and the damage to property and fatality. We should always be mindful that every object in motion has energy in it.

The Next Issue I Want To Draw Attention To Is Overtaking

The Road Traffic Regulations certainly allow and grant you the liberty to overtake a vehicle. The same regulations, road signs, markings and conditions of the road have laid down rules, regulations under which a driver is not expected toovertake.

Considerable lives have been lost on our roads because drivers undertook overtaking in locations, conditions and circumstances in which they should not have done so. They are serious driver errors. One of the principles in prevention of road crash is see and be seen. For 90% of decisions that we take on the road depends on what we see.

Why do you overtake in a bend when you cannot see what is beyond the bend?

Why do you overtake a vehicle in the night when all you can observe is headlight, you don’t know the type of vehicle that is approaching, the exact location of the vehicle and the distance between you and the approaching vehicle? Why do you overtake a vehicle when visibility is limited and restricted?

The next issue I would like to deal with is the use of ‘U’turns. Lives have been lost as a result of road crashes that occur at ‘U’ turns. The use of ‘U’ turns is another situation that reveals our character or attitude in respect of time. When it comes to the use of the road, all of a sudden we become conscious of how time flies and we want to drive fast. So at ‘U’ turns we want to make a turning before the approaching vehicle reaches where we are. At ‘U’ turns, you slow down as you approach and stop for the approaching vehicle from your right to pass. Yourspeed as at the time you stop and to turn would be between 0 – 20 kph but the approaching traffic may be between 80 -100 kph. Many lives have been lost as a result of failure to exercise patience and wait which are requirementsof a good drier. Those drivers would have been alive if they had exercised patience. Whenever you are making a ‘U’ turn, you must assess the distance of the approaching vehicle and its likely speed before you turn.Do not only observe, always assess the approaching vehicles speed and distance.

It has become fashionable to hold mobile phone in one hand and use the other hand to control the steer. This is done by both the young, the old and across the male and female drivers. It is inconsistent with and violation ofRegulation 101 of the Road Traffic Regulations 2012, LI 2180. The Regulation states as follows ‘A person driving a motorvehicle on a road shall;

  1. a) ‘maintain complete control over the vehicle and have full visibility of the traffic.’ The regulation imposes two duties on the driver namely;

Maintain complete control over the vehicle and secondly have full visibility of traffic. A driver holding mobile phone cannot perform those two duties. Research has established that using mobile phone whilst driving affects driver performance in several and different ways. It impairs maintenance of lane position, general awareness of other traffic, maintenance of appropriate and predictable speed, maintenance of appropriate following distance from vehicle in front and reaction times. It is also established that it creates a significant crash risk to the user and to other people both on the road and off the road as it also impairs the driver’s control of thevehicle. On our roads, one comes across situation where drivers in roundabout are using mobile phone and also at intersections, T and Y junctions risking their lives and others who are sharing the road with them.

How do we use the road? The Road Authorities provided a lay-by for parking to enable pick up and drop off to take place. Drivers of commercial vehicle have turned such lay-bys into parking lot thereby occupying road space. At times you can find three or four vehicles parked adjacent to each other. Road space is reduced and poses risk to pedestrians and other drivers. Drivers are advised to always be observant and expect the unexpected namely vehicles moving off from parked position without signaling or having regard to oncoming traffic from the rear and also be mindful that pedestrians may cross. The above situation is rampant on the Independence Avenue near Total Filling Station, 37 Military Hospital, Kaneshie, Ring Road and a host of others.

Parking is another source of risk. It is common sight to observe vehicles parked close to a junction thereby limiting the vision of other drivers. It is common to find trucks particularly tankers parked in between the Entrance and Exit of filling station leading to limitation of the visibility of drivers who are about to exit from the filling station. Before you park your vehicle you must ask yourself the following questions namely; is it safe? Is it convenient to other road users? And is it legal?

In conclusion, I wish to invite the reader to recall any road crash that he or she has observed or came across and quickly ask the question can it not be prevented or avoided. Safety on the road starts with you. Therefore, change the mental attitude that driving is easy, I am a good driver and it cannot happen to me.


The author is a Fellow of Charted Institute of Logistics and Transport. He is also the Author of Safe Driving Simplified with Questions and Answers.

Dr. J. M. Y. Amegashie FCILT
e-mail: jmyameg@yahoo.com

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