Today, Monday 15th November, marks a very important day in our road safety calendar, it’s BRAKE’s National Road Safety Week, the theme being ROAD SAFETY HEROES, celebrating the heroic work of road safety professionals, and explaining how we can all play a part in making journeys safer for everyone.
We’ve also just seen the conclusion of COP26, where 200+ world leaders have come together to discuss and plan how to deal with major environmental challenges.
I thought to mark day 1 of road safety week I’d take a look at how as individuals and businesses, we can become ‘road safety heroes’, and in doing so, lower our carbon footprint with some simple driving strategies, plus some hints and tips to make for safer, smoother and therefore more environmentally friendly driving.
I suppose the first thing is to consider is whether the journey by vehicle is needed in the first instance and if it is, are there more sustainable and healthier ways of traveling, walking or cycling for example?
Assuming the journey by vehicle is necessary, let’s look at some fuel-efficient driving tips:
- Don’t carry unnecessary weight – empty the boot of heavy unneeded items, remove the roof rack/box or cycle carrier, drag from these increases fuel consumption. Do you really need to fill up the tank when say half-full will be sufficient for your needs, why carry that extra weight around?
- Vehicle fully fit – vehicles that are not regularly serviced will be less fuel-efficient and less safe too. Are your tyres up to scratch, inflated correctly and have as an absolute minimum, 1.6mm of tread across the central three-quarter band? If not, you could be breaking the law and safety will be compromised.
- Snow can be lovely but – remove snow from your vehicle, including the roof, the snow might slip and impair your vision, the extra weight will consume more fuel too.
- Watch your speed – we all know that speed limits are not targets, so consider reducing speed where you can. A recent study showed that by limiting your overall speed to no more than 60mph saved 10% of fuel. The less fuel you use the lower your carbon footprint. And guess what, reducing speed has a massive safety benefit!
- Keep your distance – in driving, time and space are everything. Plenty of space between you and the vehicle in front means that you are less likely to have to keep jabbing the brakes, and, if the vehicle in front stops suddenly, you can stop calmly. If you can’t orchestrate space, you need time, slowing down buys valuable time!
- Slow to flow – whenever you can, plan to stop but aim to keep going if it is safe. At a roundabout for example, there’s no point in rushing up to a stop, then pulling off again. Better to reduce speed on the approach, making the final approach at a speed that will enable you to spot that gap, and flow safely without actually stopping, it’s smoother, more fuel-efficient and much safer for everyone.
- See and be seen – when you are driving, it’s easy to forget that others may not have seen you, so, lights on whenever visibility gets poor, don’t forget the daytime running lights on your vehicle work only on the front, the back is in darkness, and, in daytime fog, your auto-on lights may not turn on, you will need to switch them on manually.
- Vulnerable road users – please look out for cyclists and pedestrians, they are among our most vulnerable of road users. I know, I’m going to get comments about pedestrians and cyclists not helping themselves, especially when it comes to visibility issues, but, as a responsible road user I’m sure you would want to take the lead, just in case others don’t. Did you know that the Highway Code has been changed, there is now a hierarchy of road users listed and new rules that protect pedestrians that are crossing roads – do you know what the new rules are?
- Don’t drive while fatigued – Lack of sleep can make you less alert and affect your coordination, judgement, and reaction time while driving. The most common times for drivers with normal sleep patterns to fall asleep at the wheel are early morning (2am-6am) and early afternoon (2pm-4pm). These times are when the body clock reaches a natural dip, causing drowsiness and reduced concentration.
- Drugs and alcohol – not a great mix when it comes to driving. Make sure that any medication you are taking will not impact on your ability to drive safely, ask you GP, and if you like the odd drink or two, please consider the morning after affect, this is where you consume alcohol the night before that might still be in your blood stream the next morning!
The above is not a definitive list, but some small changes that we can all do to contribute towards supporting BRAKE Road Safety Week, and hopefully beyond as these techniques become our default behaviour.