We may all like to think we’re better drivers than the average, but how mindful are we of the safety risks on the road?

As the days get shorter and the daylight falters, there are seasonal hazards to be aware of for driving during autumn and winter months.

The glare from the sun can impact on our ability to observe the road ahead – summer may be a distant memory, but you may still need your sunglasses.

Our vision of the road ahead may also be improved by ensuring windscreens are clean. Be particularly aware of the hazy film that can build up, almost gradually, on the inside of the glass. Old wiper blades, too, can affect our ability to observe hazards if they’re worn or damaged.

More dangerous than a coalmine

Why do we need to be mindful of the risks on the roads?

Driving for work is one of the most dangerous activities you can undertake. In fact, you are more likely to be killed driving for business than if you were employed as a coal miner or deep-sea diver.

In 2016, there were 1792 deaths on UK roads - 42 per cent of these involved people driving for work, business, or commuting to or from work.

In terms of road deaths per million, we are still one of the safest places in the European Union to drive, with 28 deaths per million.

Norway and Switzerland are statistically the safest, with a slightly lower figure of 26 deaths per million.

There is always room for improvement, and it involves more than the practical vehicle checks we can do to ensure our health and safety on the roads.

Organisations can work together with their employees to mitigate all the known risks.

Fatigue, stress and ill-health

Reducing the risk of fatigue, stress and work-related ill health on the roads is important if we wish to improve.

According to research, for example, fatigue contributes to around 20 per cent of accidents on major European roads.

On long, monotonous stretches of roads, such as motorways, or where the over familiarity of well-travelled routes may be a factor, we particularly need to avoid succumbing to fatigue.

Staggeringly, more than 50 per cent of long-distance drivers have admitted to falling asleep at the wheel.

It is estimated that around 5 per cent of the population may be suffering from undiagnosed sleep apnoea, a condition that can trigger severe daytime sleepiness.

Is your organisation helping raise awareness of the risks?

Promoting wellbeing for safer driving

We mustn’t overlook emotional wellbeing either.

If we want to prevent accidents, ensuring the wellbeing of drivers is critical. Stress has been linked with risk taking on the roads – 71 per cent of drivers admit to losing their concentration after getting annoyed.

CIRAS have already run a full eight-week mindfulness training course with Abellio buses with the aim of reducing stress behind the wheel.

You can read the article on: www.ciras.org.uk/articles/2018/mindfulness-based-stress-reduction-for-safety-critical-workers. Every single driver who participated on the course reported that they were driving more safely as a result.

If we can learn to look after ourselves better, we can remain calm and focused whilst driving.

Pay more attention : Driving tips

Take longer to look

  • It’s a very common cause of road accidents, but failing to look properly is a relatively easy fix.
  • Taking an extra moment to have a proper look before pulling out, changing lanes or opening your car door whilst stationary, could prevent many accidents.
  • Try the ‘Dutch Reach’: Open the car door with the hand furthest from the handle so you turn your head to look behind you.
  • This is a tip that is easy to implement and turn into a habit.

Keep your energy levels up

  • There’s a clear relationship between the food and drink you consume and your energy levels
  • Staying hydrated, eating nutritious food and sticking to a balanced diet, can keep your mind focused on the road, whilst preventing those dangerous lapses in concentration
  • Look around the staff canteen – what is on offer?
  • Is it going to boost your energy levels or leave you feeling sluggish?

Anticipate other road users

  • The highway code says: “Wait until there is a safe gap between you and any oncoming vehicle”
  • To do this, you need to judge the path and speed of other vehicles
  • Failing in this respect causes around a fifth of all UK road accidents
  • Many accidents occur when a gap is misjudged when merging onto a motorway, pulling onto a roundabout or thinking that another road user will accommodate your risky manoeuvre

Don’t get distracted

  • Distractions inside, as well as outside the car can creep up and threaten to use your mental head space
  • Using your mobile phone (even if it’s hands free) is known to be a factor in many accidents
  • Reading or tapping out texts, can be lethal
  • Resist the urge to respond to an incoming message - it’s just not worth the risk
  • Bring your mind back to the road instead of attempting to multi-task