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Each year road accidents cause an unacceptable number of deaths and permanent disabilities. Apart form the human suffering that they inevitably cause, road accidents impose a financial burden to the society, social security, health system and the insurance industry.
Ultimately we are all called upon to pay more to cover the resulting increased cost, either by paying more insurance premium or increased health care cost.
Do we all know how to avoid the multiple dangers threatening us when we drive?
Do we regularly review our driving habits so that we can better protect ourselves, our passengers, other users of the road as well as our vehicle?
The answers to these important questions are critical as many surveys have shown that a continuous education of the drivers and other road users, could significantly decrease the number of casualties caused by road accidents.
It is important to know which are the most common hazards on the road in order to have them in mind and be ready to take steps to face them or better, prevent them.
Road rage and aggressive driving combined with excessive speed are a major source of road disasters. According to data from the United States, for every three accidents, two are a result of aggressive driving and road rage inflicting a rampant number of deaths.
Fatigue and sleepiness are additional important and frequent causes of road accidents. The prompt reactions, the abilities as well as the judgment of any driver are impaired by fatigue and sleepiness.
Alcohol consumption prior to driving contributes to fatigue and sleepiness. Additionally impaired attention, slow reactions, dizziness and sleep can be caused to the driver even by a very moderate alcohol consumption. A driver doesn't have to be drunk in order to have his driving abilities dangerously decreased.
In the United States approximately 40% of the traffic fatalities are alcohol-related, and a great number of those are caused by habitual problem drinkers.
Long drives in the comfortable quiet modern cars, can facilitate sleepiness in a tired driver. Sleep, even for a minimal fraction of seconds, can be deadly under these circumstances.
Signs of road fatigue include lack of attention, heavy eyelids and closing eyes, burning eyes, shallow breathing, back and shoulders pain, and erratic driving such as failure to obey traffic signs, abnormal speed and drifting.
"Highway hypnosis" has been defined as the decrease of a driver's abilities and reaction time, because of fatigue and sleepiness caused by the comfortable environment of the car including "cruise control", the long straight roads without any sharp curves or bumps, the monotonous and repetitive landscapes.
What can be done to avoid sleep behind the wheel?
A good sleep the night before a long drive, avoiding long drives in the night, avoiding alcoholic drinks, drive if possible with another person are the first steps to take to avoid tiredness and sleepiness on the road. Additionally frequent breaks during long journeys, light meals, keeping a cool temperature in the car, avoiding cruise control, turning on the radio and listening music which is not soft and sleep inducing, can help keeping driver alert and avoid fatigue.
Safe driving means as well respect for other drivers. Using turn signals should always precede any move to turn even in the cases that the move to be done is obvious. The turn signs should not be omitted in cases of changing lanes. Respecting the stop signs imply that your car must come to a complete stop before proceeding. The stop signs are one of the signs which are the most not respected in spite of the fact that they are one of the most important.
Showing understanding to other drivers is important. Some people may make mistakes because they don't know well the area, or may be they are tired. Older people may be slower and younger people can do more often mistakes. Therefore it is necessary to be tolerant and helpful.
We have to constantly remember that nowadays, road traffic accidents kill more than 1.2 million people a year worldwide.
The numbers are rising sharply and according to estimates from the World Health Organization the total numbers are expected almost to double by 2020.
Education for safer driving is aiming at saving lives and reducing injuries by preventing traffic crashes. Individuals as well as policy makers and governments should make all possible efforts in order to minimize human and physical factors contributing this unacceptable death toll and human tragedies induced by road traffic accidents.
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