Three potential killers; a low sun; broken lights and those blind spots
Our Road Safety Authority expert this week urges care and action to avoid accidents on three fronts
We regularly highlight the main factors behind road crashes. They are speeding, drink driving, non-seatbelt wearing, mobile phone use, drug driving and driver fatigue.
But there are others that, while not principal causes, are equally important to make sure you stay safe. Here are three:
1. The first is magnified at this time of year. It is the danger caused by sun glare. Drivers can be temporarily dazzled or blinded by the intensity and brightness of a low sun on the horizon.
According to our research department, provisional collision statistics show that in 2014 there were three fatalities, 12 injures, six of which were serious, as a result of collisions where sun glare was a significant contributory pre-crash factor. Last year there were two fatalities and three serious injuries due to the same problem.
At this time of the year, the sun sits low in the sky in the late morning and early evening. If a driver is driving straight into the sun at these times, he or she can be completely dazzled by the sheer intensity and brightness of its rays. Ray D'Arcy on his radio show recently described such an experience when driving down the main hill on the M8 into Cork just before the Jack Lynch tunnel.
The situation is made worse if the windscreen is dirty or greasy or if it has been raining, or there is snow on the ground.
Don't get caught out by sun glare, make sure your windscreen is clean inside and out. Get a pair of polarised sun glasses. They will help greatly in reducing the effect of sun glare.
2. Another problem is broken headlights. Our own observational studies suggest that one-in-14 cars on the road has a broken light. It is extremely important to have correctly working lights on your vehicle and I would urge every driver to make sure all are in proper working order before you start your journey.
Think about it - how can you be safe if you can't be seen? Just take a couple of minutes to turn on your lights and check them before you start your journey - this simple check could be the difference in you coming home safely tonight. It will typically cost between €10 and €20 to replace a bulb. If you don't it could end up costing you more, for example, if convicted and fined in a court or if you were responsible for a crash.
3. Another danger faced by vulnerable road users, particularly in towns and cities, is the blind spots on trucks. Due to their size and design, trucks have significant blind spots. A driver's field of vision, within a cab, is limited; the area immediately in front, behind and to the left is often hidden from view and cyclists and pedestrians are at an increased risk of being struck.
In towns and cities, between 2007 and the middle of 2015, a total of 54 Vulnerable Road Users (cyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists) were killed in collisions involving trucks. This accounted for one-fifth of vulnerable road user fatalities.
So the message is: if you can't see the driver, the driver will not be able to see you.
Cyclists in particular need to be aware of this 'Danger Zone' on trucks and should never ride along the kerb side, especially if it's turning left. Truck drivers too need to be aware that the mirrors on their cab will not always give them a total view of any cyclists that may be riding alongside or behind. Collision investigations have shown that pedestrians crossing the road in slow moving urban traffic too close to the area immediately in front of a truck, which is normally hidden from the driver's view, may well have been a significant contributory factor in the deaths of older pedestrians. So if you are crossing the road, never cross in front of large vehicles. Even if the vehicle has blind spot mirrors it's simply not worth the risk.