5pm Dubbed the Hour of ‘Driving Doom’

Despite Department of Transport (DfT) statistics showing a drop in all types of road accident injuries, the percentage of people being killed during rush hour, which runs from 16:00 to 17:59, was at its highest since 2003 last year. This strongly suggests that people are more at risk of a road accident during rush hour - but why is this?

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DFT’s data on 2013’s incidents shows this time of day as the most dangerous because the number of people killed at this time was 3,925 - almost 1,000 more than between 14:00 and 15:59. Where fatalities stood at 3,109. There is also a difference in the number of people suffering a non-fatal accident, with 31,897 injured in the busy period while, in the preceding two hours, 25,187 suffer some form of injury.

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These statistics are more likely to spike in the colder months because driving conditions in the winter are often riskier than at other times of the year. This is due to there being more chance of adverse weather and longer periods of darkness, particularly once the clocks have gone back at the end of October. Both these things increase the risk of collisions, injuries and fatalities.

 

Driving in the dark is more risky than in the light of day for a number of reasons - drivers experience reduced visibility due to the time their eyes need to adjust after being in a well-lit building or travelling on a well-lit road. This makes it difficult to judge speed and distance, which can make it harder to spot pedestrians and cyclists - they are often closer than drivers realise. 

 

What can I do to be safe?

  • Make sure all your car’s lights are in working order
  • Use your headlights appropriately - turn on high beams in unlit areas and turn them off in areas with street lighting
  • Ensure your mirrors and windscreen are clean from smears and smudges by keeping a microfibre cloth in your car
  • Look ahead for signs of oncoming drivers e.g. beams of light at the top of hills and around bends
  • Try not to stare into bright lights as this can be painful to the eyes and cause you to be distracted from driving
  • Use the cat’s eyes that are placed on the road to mark their edge - red marks the hard shoulder, amber the central reservation and green alerts drivers to exits and entry slip roads

 

As well as an increase in road accidents at a particular time of day, the Department of Transport statistics show incidents on snowy and icy roads have risen from 2,190 in 2011 to 3,650 in 2013. And with weather experts predicting that this year is set to be the worst winter in a decade, road accidents may be on the up again.

Tackling snow and ice

Driving on a snowy or icy road is hazardous because it can be extremely slippery, which hinders your ability to steer, while falling snow combined with a dark evening can seriously impair your vision. Our advice would be to wait until the falling snow has cleared before driving but if can’t be helped, the following might prove useful:

 

  • Control your acceleration gently by using low revs and changing to a higher gear as quickly as possible
  • Leave a gap of around 10 times the normal recommended amount between you and the car in front
  • If you do skid, steer gently into it and do not take your hands off the wheel or press down hard on the brakes
  • Keep your speed down and allow yourself more time to stop and steer

 

Categories: Road And Motor
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