Since I passed my driving test last September, my driving instructor’s parting words have stayed with me on every single one of my drives; don’t get into any bad habits now. It would make sense to say this to a newly qualified driver given the fact that in February 2022 alone, 543,747 penalty points were issued across the country. Penalty points are classed by many as a nuisance, and for novice drivers, they can be of detriment to your license. But overall, according to the RSA, penalty points are actually designed to “encourage safe driving and reduce casualties on our roads.” Keeping Irish roads safe should be something that is on every driver’s mind throughout every journey. Following an interview with local mechanic and fireman Adrian McHugh, who has more than 18 years’ experience in both fields, he provided me with some tips that will help equip people with information to be safer drivers.
Ensure your vehicle is roadworthy and safe to drive
Ensuring that your car is safe to be driven is extremely important, and should never be overlooked. According to the RSA, vehicle owners have a legal responsibility to ensure that their vehicle is roadworthy, and Mr McHugh emphasises that all drivers should check the following things before driving:
- Check that your tires meet legal requirement standards
- Ensure all of your lights are working
- Make sure that your windscreen wipers are operating correctly
As well as this, Mr McHugh says that regular service checks and NCT safety checks are essential to ensure the health of your vehicle. Leaving your mobile phone in the back seat to avoid it distracting you is also something that one should do before taking off on a journey.
Know the signs of driver fatigue:
Whether you are commuting to work at an early hour of the morning or travelling home late at night, sometimes your body clock cannot help but feel the hit. Drowsiness while driving can happen to anyone, and drivers are urged not to ignore the signs of driver fatigue. According to the RSA’s document on Driver Tiredness, driver fatigue could be a contributing factor in 1 in 5 driver deaths in Ireland. Mr McHugh highlights the general advice that is in place for all drivers from the RSA, and reminds drivers to follow this advice when driving. The RSA advice people to stop in a safe place when you feel tired, drink a cup or two of a strong, caffeinated beverage and take a 15-20 minute nap while the caffeine takes effect. For this reason, it is essential to carry some spare change in your car console for times when you may suffer with driving fatigue, and to always know the signs of driver fatigue.
Check you have a hi-vis vest, torch and first aid kit in your boot
There is a hi-vis vest and first aid kit supplied in the boot of most brand new vehicles. But, if you have a second hand vehicle, Mr McHugh takes a moment to remind all drivers to check that their car has these essential supplies. In the case of a car breakdown, it is imperative to have a highly visible reflective piece of clothing available to put on, especially if you are pulled in at the sign of a main road, to avoid involving yourself or others in an accident. Having a torch may also be helpful, alongside a car first-aid kit, which you can purchase from any motor factor store around the country.
Although Irish weather is renowned for its’ dull, rainy nature, there are times where sporadic snippets of sunshine break through the clouds. Particularly in Ireland, the roads can be quite glossy after endless amounts of rain, and the sun glistening off the road in front of you can impair your vision and distract you while driving. Mr McHugh says that having a pair of sunglasses in your glove box can be of massive benefit for you and the people around you for sunny days, and will allow you to fully focus on obeying speed limits, maintaining control over your vehicle and watching out for unexpected hazards.
Always wear your seatbelt
The RSA state that as well as wearing your own seatbelt, it is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that children under the age of 17 are wearing a seatbelt. However, Mr McHugh says that it is advisable the driver of the vehicle ensures that all passengers have their seatbelt on, even when they are over the age of 17 and legally required to make this decision themselves. Mr McHugh also reminds people to wear their seatbelt correctly, and ensure that the lap section of the seatbelt rests along the top of the thighs and across your pelvis, with the shoulder section of the seatbelt feeding diagonally across the body to rest on the shoulder only, not the neck or the arm. As well as running the risk of serious injury, a fine of €2,000 will be issued to those that are caught not wearing a seatbelt.
Mr McHugh concludes by urging all people to visit the RSA website for more information on all road safety matters, and to always take considerable care when driving on our roads. The website can be found at https://www.rsa.ie/, where you can also read more about the statistics cited in this article.