The Top 5 Reasons Why Accidents Happen

The rate of road accidents is on the rise again. What are the reasons for this increase and how can we avoid it?
Jason Snyman
This year’s Easter period saw an increase of 51% in road fatalities. Some of the deadliest accidents recorded occurred in Gauteng, the Western Cape and Kwazulu-Natal. Natal alone saw an increase of 111% in speeding, seatbelt, overloading and alcohol-related deaths. The Northern Cape saw a staggering 175% increase. Ishmael Mnisi, spokesperson of the Transport department, stated that passengers made up the largest percentage of casualties in these accidents. This is likely due to the bus strike resulting in commuters seeking alternative transport and the high rate of mini bus crashes. Most of these accidents occurred in residential areas between midnight and 5am. This past weekend saw seven fatalities on Western Cape roads and an Audi taking flight down Rivonia Road in Sandton – smashing into a sign post. The list goes on and on. It seems that whenever we drive to work, drive home or turn on the news, there’s a twisted heap of metal beside the road, only vaguely resembling somebody’s car. Why do we drive this way and what causes these horrific accidents? We take a look at the Big 5 reasons...

1. Distraction

Most accidents boil down to one sole cause; human error. Whether you’re trying to eat your Big Mac or untangling your ear phones, there is no greater example of human error in action than distracted driving. The biggest problem? Playing with your phone. The use of a cell phone while driving is considered the leading cause of road accidents in South Africa, responsible for as much as a full quarter. Using a phone while you’re behind the wheel is dangerous for a number of reasons. Whether it be for texting, talking or using your GPS. According to a road safety report by the International Transport Forum – 75% of all motorists admit to using their phone while driving. Let’s say you spend 60 seconds using your phone. If you’re driving at 60km/h, this is equal to driving completely ‘blind’ for one kilometre. This makes you, the driver, four times more likely to be involved in an accident. Spend a little time on the autobahn that is the N1 highway and you’ll know – people drive a lot faster than that, and most of them aren’t even looking up.

2. Drinking

According to the South African Police Service (SAPS) website, your blood may not have an alcohol content of more than 0.05%. For many people, this means that one beer could already put you over the limit. For those who have an unreasonably high tolerance to alcohol, such as the people living in the West Rand, it depends on a number of factors. 1l Klipdrift, 2l Coke, 3l Cortina – as the Krugersdorp saying goes. First and foremost, South Africans have adopted the wrong attitude toward this. We gauge our ability to drive drunk based on how much we’ve had to drink, what we’ve had to drink and our supposed tolerance levels. We should be saying; one drink is one too many. Alcohol, after all, impairs your driving ability. We feel more relaxed, and therefore may become drowsy and doze off, doing 120km/h down Witkoppen. Alcohol slows eye muscle function and alters eye movement and visual perception. Our reflexes slow down, reducing our reaction time. Poor eye/hand/foot coordination follows. It decreases your positioning ability and hinders the ability to make rational decisions. We’ve all made appalling decisions while drunk. Why would you want to make them behind the wheel of a car?

3. Speeding

Drive like lightning, crash like thunder. That’s something which has been drilled into us since childhood. Speed kills. It may sound like a cliché, but speeding has and always will be one of the leading causes of accidents on the road. The ideas behind a speed limit are all simple. Speed drastically reduces the time available to stop or avoid a collision, as well as extending the distance your vehicle travels while you react. You see now, how the window closes. The chance of you avoiding a high-speed crash grows smaller and smaller. Most importantly, speed increases the severity of a crash once it occurs.

4. Reckless / Negligent Driving

Drivers who speed, change lanes too quickly (shooting a gap) or tailgate cause an alarming amount of fatal car accidents. You know these people, the impatient, aggressive type. They sit right on your bumper all the way down the highway, flashing their lights and giving you the finger. There’s no actual emergency – they’re just allowing their ego to do the driving. They run red lights and stop signs without looking and end up T-boning an old lady’s Uno in the middle of the intersection. They perform unsafe lane changes without checking their blind spots or using their indicators.  Some even overtake on a blind rise or in the face of oncoming traffic. Red means stop, and you should always check both left and right before proceeding into an intersection. Likewise, inexperienced drivers such as teenagers also pose a problem on the road. The old folk like to say – it is one thing being aware of what you are doing. It’s the other people you really need to worry about. If only it were that simple. Constant vigilance is required when operating 1800kg of high-speed metal.

5. Pedestrians

While bad weather, slippery roads and heavy winds certainly pose a problem, the last spot goes to pedestrians. Last year, 5410 of the 14071 fatalities were pedestrians, compared to 3601 drivers and 4608 passengers. Pedestrians often take chances, dashing across busy roads where they shouldn’t. They seldom make the effort to make themselves more visible to drivers, especially at night. These are the main factors involved when it comes to pedestrian fatalities on the road. Others include texting-and-walking (distracted walking), lack of children supervision (children who run into the road) and drunken Capetopians and their papsaks falling out into the road in front of cars. Traffic fines seem to be geared towards the motorist having to take responsibility for the pedestrian, but the latter also needs to be more accountable. The road is a dangerous place, and every time you wander out into the middle of it, you’re taking a risk. Left, right and left again is something we’ve forgotten how to use. Cyclists, of course, have their own category. 451 cyclist fatalities were reported in 2016.
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How To Avoid Accidents

Being proactive is far more beneficial than being reactive. Inspect your vehicle for problems before leaving the house. Leave your Facebook alone while you’re driving. Map your GPS routes before you begin your journey. Focus on what you’re doing. Focus on what other drivers are doing. Be courteous and respectful. Do not drink or do drugs before or during your journey. Wear your safety belt. Stay below the speed limits. Keep a safe following distance – at least one car’s length. Be aware of your surroundings. Use your indicators. Check your blind spots. Check before crossing the road. Don’t be an idiot. Arrive alive.   Compare Car Insurance Now.