Last year the UK Government and Police joined forces to urge anyone attending Christmas parties to leave their car keys at home and not risk the devastation drink driving causes. Coca-Cola supported this in that drivers received free soft drinks at thousands of pubs across the UK.
Measures to Cut Down Chances of Accidents
By identifying the different human errors that cause accidents there is greater possibility of taking measures to cut down the chances of them occurring. It is known, for instance that using a mobile phone when driving causes driving errors and new laws recently enforced should hopefully, help reduce accidents in that respect. Research has shown that accidents occur for three main reasons:
- Perceptual Errors – Sun momentarily blinding vision or light being too dim
- Driver Not Paying Attention – Driver fails to notice critical information because his/her eyes were focused elsewhere
- Driver Fails to Choose Correct Response to Avoid Accident – When skidding, for instance, driver may brake instead of turning into the skid
There are almost 200,000 accidents a year. Drivers are aware that they might crash, that the tool they are driving can turn against them at any moment but, as Conrad King in 1997 argued, drivers tend to keep this knowledge under the surface so they don’t have to deal with the weight of it.
One way of doing this is to over-emphasise the importance of personal or other factors that are relative to previous accidents on the road and imagine they will not arise with them. In order to reduce the likely risk in people’s minds, they might tell themselves “it won’t happen to me!” It has been found, however, that drivers can be educated to consider the attributions they are making when witnessing such events, and instead of reaching the conclusion “That will never happen to me”, they might consider: “There for the Grace of God go I!”
Availability of Information in Accidents
Another way people tend to ignore the more dangerous aspects of driving is that individuals make decisions according to the information they have available and some items of information spring more readily to mind than others. These are more likely to influence decisions. Dramatic, easily visualised examples are likely to make more of an impact on a person’s decision-making processes than dull, abstract information.
People therefore weigh up the benefits of travelling by car compared with the risk and the fact that “a few deaths do occur”, then decide they will take the risk.
This cost/benefit approach to the whole argument evaporates, however, when an individual has personal experience of such an event. In such cases, all the benefits in the world could in no way compensate for the one death. Often, it is the people who have undergone the experience and who have suffered from the results of a tragic accident, who are the ones who will campaign for greater safety on the roads.
How People Can be Taught to Understand Consequences of Dangerous Driving
In May, 2008 in Cumbria, UK, accident victims and ex-offenders got together to warn young people in Cumbria of the consequences of dangerous driving. John Moorcroft, Cumbria’s deputy chief fire officer said that “By delivering these hard-hitting sessions at sports clubs around the county, we can reach more young people and hopefully reduce car crime and accidents on the county’s roads.”
Dept., of the Environment Transport and the Regions, 1996 Evaluation of the Benefits of Road Accidents and Casualties, Highways Economics Note No. 1, 1996
Driving Standards Agency New Official Guide to the Driving Test DSA 35/96, 23 July, 1996
Dyer-Smith, Martyn (1989) The Human Factor in Accident Investigation The Nautical Institute, London