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Winter Driving Conditions – Risk Awareness.

Winter days, being shorter, with colder, darker morning and evening commutes are heralds of increased road journey risk for all road users. This is a season of the year where a driver must increase awareness, focus and vehicle control in order to avoid being involved in an incident.

Statistics show an increase of drink driving offences in the winter months, but it is not just alcohol that affects focus and control when driving a vehicle. There are other considerations such as the impact of driving when tired, driving directly after a large meal or driving at times when others may be about to depart from a celebratory occasion. It is a wise precaution to be aware that risk increases during this time where a combination of seasonal traditional activities added to darker mornings and nights, colder, maybe icy conditions can lead to situations that require fast and immediate reactions.

It is also interesting to note that the biggest cause of accidents in the UK is “driver error or reaction” It has been stated that this is the cause of more than 65% of accidents. Driver error or the time to react to a hazard situation can be undermined by the driving conditions, tiredness, medication, drugs, alcohol and even food consumption. Conditions that can cause similar effects to that of drinking alcohol are fatigue and dehydration where concentration and focus are somewhat diminished. So late nights and early starts to a journey will only add to the incident risk, even if alcohol, drugs or medication are not factors.

The following recommendations for remaining focused and in control of a vehicle in all circumstances should be considered even more so during this period under discussion. A driver, before any journey, should ensure and be aware of:

  • A requirement for a good status of general health.
  • A requirement for good eyesight or corrected if required.
  • Driving whilst tired will lead to lack of focus, poor attention, poor judgement and slower reaction times.
  • Driving long periods puts enormous stress on the driver, mentally and physically
  • Driving for long periods of time can cause psychological distress for inexperienced drivers.
  • Prescription and over the counter drugs should be checked to see if it is legal or safe to drive a vehicle.

A driver can follow these guidelines, especially if the journey is long:

  • Plan regular break and rest periods – breaks the monotony, increases alertness.
  • Drink enough water – dehydration will impair mental faculties.
  • Start the journey at the right time – not when normally asleep.
  • Try not to drive at night – a risk of an accident is three times greater.
  • Do not drive immediately after a large meal – some foods will induce tiredness.
  • Discourage distractions from passengers – even a conversation can compromise concentration.

These pointers are especially helpful for employees where work activities involve winter driving. When the incident risk is higher, being aware of the possibility that there may be intoxicated or tired drivers on the road, it makes it absolutely essential to be alert, concentrated, focused and in full control of a vehicle. This really is a duty of care requirement for all drivers and if promoted by the employer is an additional cautionary recommendation in order to continue the employer’s duty of care.

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