Speed main cause of road accidents

Why are our roads such dangerous places? An accident reconstruction expert who has given evidence in many high court cases arising from accidents that led to death or serious injury was recently asked to list, from his experience, the five most common causes of serious accidents.

He didn't think long before coming up with the following:

l Speed;

l Speed;

l Speed;

l Total lack of consideration for others, shown by the jumping of red traffic lights, tailgating, lane changing without signalling, aggressive overtaking; and

l Unroadworthy vehicles with bald tyres, vise-grips taking the place of a steering wheel, defective brakes, no taillights at night, etc.

Perhaps total lack of consideration for others is the underlying cause in all the others. But, he had no doubt that speed is the biggest single direct cause of accidents.

And by "speed", he meant injudicious speed in the prevailing circumstances. A safe speed in a modern car on the open road in perfect weather conditions might be lunatic at night with pedestrians around or in dense fog.

Besides keeping speed down, there are a few other things a motorist can do to avoid an accident:

l Beware of blind spots. Adjust the side mirrors and rear-view mirror to provide a seamless view of the scene behind you, but never rely entirely on them.

Also be aware that other drivers around you, especially in trucks, might have blind spots and try to minimise the time spent in them.

l Realise that travelling at night involves certain hazards. In addition to your own fatigue and the decreased visibility, you need to be aware of joyriding teenagers and drivers who might be tired or drunk. Drive extra defensively after midnight when people are leaving bars, parties or sports grounds.

The biggest danger motorcyclists face is that motorists often don't see them. The law that motorcyclists must have headlights switched on at all times in traffic, helps.