Our in-house road safety experts are ready to answer your road safety related questions.

This monthly updated section features Q&As, we are happy to answer questions on any road safety related topic, including vehicles, driver behaviour, teenagers, learning to drive and much more.

If you have a question for us please email us at oms@virtualriskmanager.net or tweet us at @One_More_Second.

I’ve been thinking about cycling to work rather than driving but I have concerns about my safety. Can you give any advice?

Firstly, it’s great to hear that you are considering cycling as a replacement to driving to work. Over the last couple of years there has been a rapid growth in the popularity of cycling and this looks set to continue.

There are many benefits to choosing cycling over driving. Firstly, it’s good for you and helps you get fit; secondly it helps the environment; and thirdly, it is cheaper than using a car so is good for your wallet too!

Yes, there are risks to cycling, as there are to all road users. The key to staying safe – whether you are a driver, cyclist or both, is to understand other road users, anticipate their actions and plan ahead.

If you do decide to cycle there is plenty you can do to help keep yourself safe on the road. Some tips include:

  • Take part in a cycling road safety course if available in your area
  • Wear a correctly fitting safety helmet (not second-hand) and protective clothing
  • Use lights and reflectors if using your bicycle at night
  • Keep your bicycle correctly maintained
  • Look behind you before you turn, overtake or stop
  • Use arm signals before you turn
  • Obey rules of the road
  • Only ride on the pavement if signs indicate it is OK to do so
  • Look out for cars opening their doors
  • Avoid using headphones, a mobile phone and other technology while cycling
  • Stay well back from trucks, buses and other large vehicles, they often cannot see you, especially at junctions when turning

There are some useful guides that have been published by various organisations, including TfL Driving & cycling safety and FTA Cycling code.

I’m due to have a baby soon and am worried about keeping him/ her safe in my car. What should I be looking for when choosing a car seat?

Congratulations on your impending arrival. Before you even start looking at which car seat to buy it is important that you know the legal requirements. You should be able to find this information on your local government’s website. You can find the legal requirements for the UK here: Child car seats: the law.

One of the key pieces of advice as your baby grows is to keep him or her rear-facing for as long as possible, rather than hurriedly moving them on to a forward-facing seat.

A few tips for selecting and installing a car seat are:

  • Always buy new equipment supplied with the manufacturer’s user manual. Check that the seat is appropriate for your child’s age, weight and height.
  • Ensure the seat conforms to the necessary standards.
  • Many people don’t realise this but car seats have expiry dates (usually 6-10 years). It is important to check the expiry date.
  • Make sure the seat is correctly installed, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Visit the Child Car Seats website for full details on choosing and using child car seats.

My job requires me to spend several hours in my vehicle most days. Do you have any advice for avoiding a bad back and other similar injuries?

What you are asking about here is ‘driver ergonomics’. This relates to the space within a vehicle and to the different factors which can affect a driver’s comfort.

We have a Best Practice Guide covering Driver Ergonomics which should tell you all you need to know.

Within the guide you will find advice on:

  • Choosing a vehicle that ‘fits’ you
  • Having a correctly positioned seat
  • Seat material
  • Seating position
  • Mirror position
  • How to position the head restraint
  • Correct positioning for the steering wheel
  • Preventing discomfort through movement
  • The importance of regular breaks
  • How to store items
  • Why you should avoid using the car as an office

I am a primary school teacher looking for new ways of teaching my five and six year olds about road safety. Can you help?

It is really important to engage children in road safety from a young age. At five and six years old children can be engaged in discussions about the rules of the road and encouraged to follow them. You can also help them to understand the dangers associated with using roads and how to avoid them, and should lead by example yourself at all times when using the road.

Here are a few ideas for discussion topics:

  • The general basics of using the roads, including:
    – What you can see in a typical street scene and what everything in the scene is called.
    – Which areas of the street are for people and which are for vehicles.
    – How important it is for children up to the age of at least 8 to hold the hand of a grown up.
    – Why streets are not places for playing.
    – Why it is important to stop, look and listen.
    – Where and how to cross safely.
    – How to travel safely in a vehicle, and anything they notice about how their parents drive!
  • The fact that traffic can be dangerous and that people can get badly hurt by vehicles. At this age, children are curious but still very innocent. When they think of someone getting hurt by a car they might compare this to the same injuries someone would get by falling over or bumping their head. The idea of going to hospital may even seem exciting to some children! It can be difficult to find the right balance as the purpose of engaging children in road safety is not to terrify them; however, it is important that they understand that injuries sustained on the roads can be very serious and life-changing.
  • The more common risk factors that lead to pedestrians being hit by vehicles. Talk about the importance of staying on the pavement and remaining focused. Parents and school governors should also be engaged in road safety, as part of the school travel plan, which should discourage car use for the school trip, and focus on the importance of good practice by parents.
  • Some drivers do dangerous things – such as driving too fast or talking on their phones while they are driving. Explain we have laws and that the police look out for dangerous behaviour.

The One More Second Kids’ Section has a selection of pictures, mazes and word searches which can be used to help support a more formal programme of teaching.

Brake, the road safety charity, also has a comprehensive guide for educators all about teaching road safety. As well as teaching ideas it also includes posters, videos and other learning resources.

Does technology have a place in road safety?

Technology definitely has a place in road safety, although it is by no means a panacea. In recent years technology has played a huge role in helping vehicle manufacturers to develop the safest vehicles we have ever had; electronic braking, lane departure warning systems, in-vehicle monitoring, to name just a few of the features designed to improve road safety. You should always select the newest and safest possible vehicle available when making vehicle purchasing decisions. Of course, there are also discussions about a future with self-driving cars, where one day technology may effectively take away most (if not all) of the responsibilities of driving.

Sometimes technology can have unintended consequences or may not have the impact expected. For example, there is evidence going back to the 1920s suggesting that better brakes do not always make safer drivers. Your attitude, behaviour and concentration (or ABC) remain critical when driving and sharing the road with others.

You should also be aware that technology can add to the distracted driving epidemic. As technology has advanced and people can turn on their phones with a quick swipe or by holding their thumb on a button, check and post on social media in a couple of seconds, and check emails with just one click, it is a challenge to get them to resist doing any of this while driving.

So, to answer the question; yes technology has a place in road safety and we have a lot to thank technology for. However, there is a downside and unfortunately technology also has a place in tempting people to take risks while driving. We need to make the most of the technology that is there to help us stay safe and educate people to resist using other technologies until they are out of their vehicles. Better journey planning, even choosing to leave the car at home by using the increasingly sophisticated journey planning technology available is also recommended.

I’m fed up of my car getting scraped when parked. Do you have any tips to prevent this?

Yes, there are steps you can take to help address this problem.

We’ve listed five top tips below but for further advice, including safety and security while parking, please see the One More Second Best Practice Guide: Avoiding Damage While Parked.

  • Avoid parking next to a vehicle with its wheels turned, a vehicle parked at an angle or a vehicle that appears badly looked after.
  • Park within the painted lines of a space so you are not encroaching on another space.
  • Park further away from buildings where there are fewer vehicles and fewer pedestrians.
  • Avoid spaces that are situated at the ends of rows where your vehicle could be scraped by others as they turn the corner.
  • Avoid parking close to turning or delivery areas.

Is it really so dangerous to drive a few km/h over the speed limit?

Yes! Speed limits are set according to several factors such as the type and size of road and the surrounding environment, such as houses, schools, playgrounds etc. Driving just a few km/h or mph over the speed limit increases the distance it would take you to stop in an emergency.

According to an RAC Australia Fact Sheet on speeding, driving 5 km/h over the speed limit doubles your chances of being involved in a crash.

Read our Best Practice Guide: Speeding for more information and for tips on how to control your speed.

My teenager is almost ready to apply for his provisional driver’s license. Is there anything I can do now to start encouraging a safe attitude to driving?

Depending on where you live your teen may have already had a learner’s license – some countries require this before a person can move on to a provisional license. Whether this is the case or not, there is plenty you can do before your teen even gets behind the wheel of a vehicle.

Be aware that from a young age children start ‘learning’ about driving as they watch from the back seat. Your teen will have probably already picked up on lots from you without you even realising it. He will have observed how you interact with other drivers, how you obey traffic laws and how you cope with unexpected events.

Hopefully you will have passed on some great examples of safe driving. Based on current experiences with our own teenage boys, encouraging them to walk and cycle from an early age is also good because it has helped them with an early understanding of the hazards they face on the road, and of the importance of avoiding the risks.

You should talk to your teen informally about some of the reasons why it is so important to be a safe driver. In fact, for anyone with younger children, I recommended that you start doing this as young as possible. The earlier you can start encouraging a safe attitude to using the road the better.

Talk to your son about safe driving practices and agree rules as a family that you will all stick to. You might find our Family Zone useful, particularly the specific sections for Parents and Teens. Within these sections you will find quizzes to test your knowledge of teen driving risks, a checklist, a driver code of conduct and a Young Driver Pledge.

I’m planning to change my car soon. What should I be looking for when purchasing a replacement vehicle?

I would always recommend that safety comes first when you are considering buying a new car. A great place to start is to find out how any vehicles you have in mind have performed in crash tests. Depending on where you live you can visit the EuroNCAP website (Europe), ANCAP website (Australasia), IIHS website (USA) or Global NCAP (emerging economies) website for crash test results and star ratings.

You should also carry out research into safety features, such as Electronic Stability Control (ESC), side impact air bags, Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) and autobrake, to name just a few. Features such as these are often overlooked but can actually prove lifesaving. For example, recently published research by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) claimed that if all vehicles had been equipped with autobrake there would have been at least 700,000 fewer police-reported rear-end crashes in 2013 in the United States.

Of course, there are lots of other things to consider when buying a car, particularly if you are buying used. I’ve found a useful guide from the AA which includes information on vehicle documents, mileage, looking for signs of damage, what to look for on a test drive and tips on checking the engine and other vehicle features.

My father is in his early 80s and still drives regularly. I don’t doubt his experience or competence but I worry that his eyesight may have deteriorated and that his reactions might not be as fast as they used to be. Can you offer any advice?

This is a very good question. It is a well-known fact that the population is ageing, and that we now have more drivers than ever aged 80 or over.

This is set to keep increasing, as people are living longer and are more able to retain their independence into their 80s and even 90s.

It is, however, a highly sensitive issue, in that inevitably many older drivers will experience a deterioration in some aspects of their health; their eyesight is just one example which would certainly affect driving ability.

Other skills that may deteriorate with age – and which could affect driving – are hearing, reaction times and physical mobility. As we age our joints get stiffer and we can find it more difficult to turn our head to check our blind spot for example. Another significant factor to consider is medication. It is not uncommon for people to take more medicines as they age – but prescription drugs can have side effects such as drowsiness and dizziness.

In the UK the law requires drivers to renew their licence at the age of 70, then every three years after that. In America the rules vary between states but, generally, older drivers are required to renew their licences at a certain age and again after a set number of years. To renew their licence drivers will have to prove they meet minimum eyesight requirements.

Even if an elderly parent has been given official approval to drive, it is still natural to worry. The difficult lies in raising such concerns with an elderly driver, as taking away someone’s mobility is a massive step.

Based on your original question, my tips are:

  • Communicate with your father on a regular basis, not just in relation to driving, but life in general.
  • Remember that your father has been driving for many years and is likely to consider himself a very skilled, experienced and competent road user. Your aim should not be to offend or accuse him of bad driving!
  • Keep a close eye on your father’s skills in other areas of their life – for example does his mobility affect him around the home? Does he appear to have slower reactions or a deterioration in hearing? Look out for these warning signs as they could impact on driving ability.
  • Talk to your father about any medication he takes and check labels for side effects. Ask him to chat to his GP about how his health and medication might affect his driving.
  • Go along on a journey with him to see for yourself how he drives.
  • Bring up the discussion sensitively. You don’t want your father to feel you are taking his independence away. Losing mobility, or admitting the need to stop driving, is a massive step.
  • Talk about whether your father finds any particular journeys more difficult – such as driving at night or at peak times. Rather than suggesting he stops driving altogether it might be worth suggesting he ‘self-regulates’ by cutting out these journeys to begin with.
  • It might also be worth thinking about the particular vehicle your father drives. There are plenty of small vehicles out there which might be easier to manoeuvre. Some elderly drivers may find an automatic transmission vehicle easier to control.

From a personal perspective the last couple of years of my mom’s life she struggled to get her car off the drive without hitting the wall. She made the decision herself to buy a newer smaller car which had more safety features and was easier to manoeuvre. It gave her an extra couple of years of mobility.

The AA and other motoring organisations have done research on older drivers, and have provided some excellent guidance, which is also worth reviewing.

I recently overheard a conversation my teenage son was having with friends about driving. It was obvious they were referring to a scenario in which someone was driving too fast and had a near miss. Worryingly they were talking about this as though it was something to be proud of and an exciting experience to have had. How can I get across to him how dangerous this type of situation can be?

It is a fact that younger drivers, particularly boys, are the ones most at risk on the road – and attitude and behaviour play a big role in this. Younger drivers’ brains are not fully developed, which means they can take greater risks and do not fully understand the dangers associated with being on the road.

On this website we have dedicated sections for parents and teenagers which are aimed at helping both young drivers and parents to understand the risks associated with teen driving. We have some excellent resources for parents including a quiz, checklist, alcohol and drug warning signs and a comprehensive guide to help you keep your young drivers safe on the road. We also have a Young Driver Pledge which can be signed by both teen drivers and their parents to demonstrate a commitment to safe driving.

As a female driver who is required to attend meetings at varied locations I can sometimes be concerned for my personal safety. Can you offer any tips on how to stay safe when I’m travelling, especially in isolated areas?

You’ve already taken the first step which is to be aware that travelling alone can come with risks.

Remember that your wellbeing is ALWAYS paramount and if you feel your safety is being compromised you should never be afraid to speak up and let your employer know. It could be the case that your employer is not aware of the routes you are required to take and the destinations you are required to visit. You might be surprised at the simple solutions that could be put in place – for example your employer might suggest changing the route you take or the times at which you travel. They might even be able to arrange car parking or for you to be met upon arrival at your destination.

These days there is plenty of technology which might be worth considering. For example, there are apps which enable you to enter details of your route, your destination, names and telephone numbers of people you are meeting – and share this information with others, such as a colleague or family member. This can act as a ‘safety net’ and reassure you that someone knows your whereabouts.

Other tips for when you are travelling alone include:

  • Be prepared. This means planning your route, making sure your vehicle has enough fuel, carrying a personal attack alarm and letting someone know your intended route and estimated time of arrival.
  • Take precautions. Keep doors and windows locked and avoid quiet and poorly lit roads.
  • Be aware. Never stop for anyone – including hitchhikers or anyone who attempts to flag you down. If you regularly travel the same route at night and stop off in the same location you should consider varying your rest stops and break times to avoid others from becoming familiar with your routine. Take breaks in well-lit, busy areas if possible.
  • Park safe. Ensure a parking space is booked in advance if you can. Choose a well-lit area to park your vehicle. Park in areas with CCTV or an attendant if possible.

The Guides section of this website contains a free downloadable Personal Security driving guide which includes more detailed advice on staying safe while travelling alone.

How quickly does alcohol leave my system? Is it possible to use this knowledge to avoid driving over the limit?

Firstly, the most important thing to point out here is that impairment begins almost as soon as you start drinking alcohol. So, even if you are under the legal drink-drive limit, there is still a very good chance that you could be impaired. Plenty of research has been carried out around the world which shows that even small amounts of alcohol can affect the skills needed to drive safely.

In the UK, the NHS states that ANY amount of alcohol affects your judgement and your ability to drive safely. Even a small amount of alcohol can reduce your co-ordination, slow down your reactions, affect your vision, affect how you judge speed and distance and make you drowsy.

Of course, the question was how quickly does alcohol leave the system. There is no strict and simple answer to this. On average, it takes around one hour for your body to break down ONE UNIT of alcohol. However, this can vary depending on many factors such as gender, age, weight, your metabolism, how much food you have eaten, the type and strength of the alcohol and whether you are taking any medication.

It can also be difficult to assess exactly how much ONE UNIT is. A large glass of wine or pint of stronger lager could contain THREE UNITS. It might therefore take three hours (or longer depending on the factors above) for this alcohol to leave the system.

It is easy to see, therefore, how just a few drinks consumed late in the evening could still put you over the legal drink-drive limit the morning after.

The safest option is to avoid drinking completely if you know you plan on driving. And if you DO decide to have a drink then choose the safer option of taking a taxi or getting a lift with someone who has abstained completely.

I’d like to start up a road safety campaign in my local area as myself and other residents are fed up of cars speeding through our local roads. Where should we start?

Establishing a road safety campaign in your local area is a great way of helping to make roads safer for all users, particularly the most vulnerable, such as pedestrians, cyclists and children.

Lobbying for official changes to speed limits, crossings etc. can be a lengthy process. It can also be a challenging process, but you might be surprised what you can achieve if you can get your community on board.

Brake, the national road safety charity, provides excellent support and resources to help people in the UK set up and run successful road safety campaigns.

Their support includes advice on setting up a group, organising petitions, campaigning online, holding demonstrations, getting media coverage and lowering speed limits. Visit www.brake.org.uk.

The Global Road Safety Partnership also provides some useful information on road safety publicity campaigns.

My shift patterns mean that I sometimes have no option but to drive at night. I know it is dangerous to drive tired but I have no option. What can I do to help myself stay safe?

Working out of hours on shifts or on call-out can cause you to have to drive while fatigued.

When shifts or call-outs fall during the night (11pm to 7am), you are fighting your natural wake-sleep pattern – making it hard to stay alert. Sleep is more than just ‘beauty rest’ for the body; it helps restore and rejuvenate the brain and organ systems so that they function properly. Chronic lack of sleep harms a person’s health, safety, productivity, memory, and mood. Most adults need 7-9 hours’ sleep. When sleep deprived, people think and move more slowly, make more mistakes, and have difficulty remembering things. The risk of workplace accidents and vehicle crashes rises for tired on-call workers.

The following bedroom rituals can help you to get sufficient sleep:

  1. Make time for adequate sleep by balancing work, sleep and personal time, and ensure people know you should not be disturbed, and that all distractions, phone calls and lights are screened out.
  2. Lower the bedroom temperature (a cool environment improves sleep).
  3. Don’t ‘activate’ your brain just before bedtime by playing computer games, going on Facebook, reading a thriller, or doing other stressful activities.
  4. If you are in a noisy household, wear ear plugs and eye shades, and insulate your bedroom with heavy light and noise blocking curtains and carpets.
  5. Avoid caffeine, sleeping pills, alcohol or nicotine before going to bed.
  6. Eat a light snack before bedtime. Don’t go to bed too full or too hungry.
  7. Try to take exercise at least three hours before you plan on going to bed, to avoid raising your body temperature and alertness close to bedtime.
  8. Keep a regular sleep schedule, even on days off and weekends. However, if you can’t get enough sleep or feel drowsy, naps as short as 20 minutes can be helpful.

Consider different transport options for the end of your shift, such as public transport or carpooling (with the most alert person doing the driving). If you do feel sleepy at the end of a shift, try to take a nap before driving home.

If you are yawning, blinking your eyes frequently or feel sleepy while driving, stop to nap as soon as safely possible, but do so in your locked car in a safe well-lit area. Never give in to the temptation of stopping off for a ‘night cap’.

It might also be worth speaking to your manager about the importance of devising ‘sleep friendly’ shifts. Ideally, shifts should rotate forwards (i.e. day to evening, evening to night).

Disclaimer: Our ‘Ask The Experts’ section is a free service for readers of One More Second. The information provided in this section is meant for informational purposes only. The section will be updated monthly to include questions received throughout the month. Please note that submission does not guarantee that your question will be answered. A selection will be posted here. Personal replies are not possible.

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