Posts tagged ‘driving’

1 September, 2014

Back to school – Lifesaving tips for drivers and parents

Ah, September. The smell of diesel fumes hangs heavy in the air, the pavements overflow with sleep-deprived children, while commuters attempt to contort their bodies to squash sardine-like into creaking buses and trains. It can only mean one thing – school’s back! Whether you’re a parent or driver, it’s important that you take extra care on the roads this car_kidsautumn and encourage your children to do the same. With that in mind, here are a few simple tips to make the morning and evening commute that little bit safer!

For parents:

Using the car

• Check that your child is correctly restrained. If you’re planning to carry any extra children make sure that you have the age-appropriate child seat. Please see the RoSPA’s dedicated website – – for more car seats advice.

• Choose a safe place to drop your child off near to the school. Aim for somewhere where you won’t cause congestion and danger to those walking or cycling to school.

• Talk to your children about road safety on your way to school, stress the importance of wearing a seatbelt.

 Walking to school

• If you are planning to let your child walk to school on their own for    the first time, talk to them about the route they child_handwill use and the  dangers they may encounter. Watch your child so that you can judge whether they have the ability to cross roads safely on their route to school.

• Children learn by watching adults. If walking your child to school, talk to them about how they can keep themselves safe and always try to set a good example when crossing the road.

Cycling to school

Cycling is a fun and healthy way to get to school, especially if a few simple precautions are taken:

• If your child is planning to cycle to school, check that their bike is in good working order. Ensure the brakes work, the tyres are pumped up and the saddle and handlebars are securely tightened.

Family and friends cycling• Plan the route they will take and consider cycling it with them for the first time.

• RoSPA recommends that a helmet be worn at all times.

For drivers:

• Be extra observant and keep a watchful eye for children walking and cycling to school, they might be distracted and excited.

• Reduce your speed where you see lots of children, especially near to schools. If you are driving at 30mph and a child runs out, your stopping distance will be at least 23 metres.

• Rushing causes accidents – give yourself more time for your journey and never be tempted to speed!

For more vital health and safety guides, facts and advice, sign up to SafetyMatters, RoSPA’s free fortnightly newsletter!

Nick Lloyd, RoSPA road safety manager

18 December, 2013

Have yourself a safe little Christmas

“Sleigh bells ring, are you listening? In the lane, snow is glistening…”

Never leave burning candles unattended and make sure they are extinguished before going to bed.

Never leave burning candles unattended and make sure they are extinguished before going to bed.

Oh yes, Christmas is nearly here! And amidst the chaos of present wrapping, food shopping and house decorating, I can see many a parent tearing their hair out over the never-ending “to do” list…

But where there’s a will, there’s a way…Good preparation is key to ensuring that your festivities are not cut short by an accident, because, let’s face it, no-one wants that! It may surprise you to know that you are 50 per cent more likely to die in a house fire over Christmas than at any other time of year. Why? Well, a combination of smoking and drinking alcohol are well-known risk factors, but candle fires also claim many lives. According to the latest Fire Statistics Great Britain, in 2011/12, there were around 1,000 candle fires in homes across Great Britain, resulting in nine deaths and 388 casualties. Christmas trees, decorations and cards were also shown to be a fire risk and responsible for 47 house fires. This is why it’s important to do the following:

  • Keep decorations and cards away from fires and other heat sources such as light fittings
  • Don’t leave burning candles unattended and make sure they are extinguished before going to bed
  • Never put candles on Christmas trees
  • If you have old and dated Christmas lights, now is the time to consider buying new ones which will meet much higher safety standards
  • Don’t underestimate the danger of overloading plug sockets. Different electrical appliances use different amounts of power, which is why you should never plug into an extension lead or socket, appliances that collectively use more than 13 amps or 3,000 watts of energy. Otherwise, it may overheat and cause a fire.

And don’t forget those smoke alarms! Is yours working? Have you tested it recently? It could just save your life. But think twice before deciding to remove its batteries to kick-start that new gadget or toy you’ve just opened – find a safer alternative – buy batteries for your gifts in advance.

On the big day itself, it’s very easy to get caught up in the excitement of Christmas and momentarily forget about the bags of opened presents left at the bottom of the stairs or the mulled wine warming on the stove. But the kitchen is a hotbed of activity, particularly on Christmas Day, which is why cooking should not be left unattended. Likewise, children should also be kept out of the kitchen and away from items such as matches and lighters. Did you know that falls remain the biggest cause of home accidents – involving all age groups? Simple things, such as keeping staircases free of clutter and making sure extension leads and cables are not strewn across the living room floor can help limit the risk of someone tripping over and injuring themselves or others.

Take a moment to look around your home from a child’s point of view. This will help you to spot potential hazards.

Take a moment to look around your home from a child’s point of view. This will help you to spot potential hazards.

It is also worth taking a moment to look around your home from a child’s point of view. Not only will this allow you to see potential dangers from a new perspective i.e. a hot drink balanced on the edge of the coffee table, but it is also a reminder to “think ahead” to keep little ones safe in your home this Christmas.

There have also been cases where children have swallowed bulbs from Christmas tree lights, so it is not a good idea to let them play with items on the tree. Young children are particularly at risk from choking, because they examine things around them by putting them in their mouths. Peanuts, for example, should be kept out of reach of children under six. Even a burst balloon or button cell battery could be a choking hazard to a baby or toddler, which is why you need to buy toys that are appropriate for your child’s age range.

It might be tempting to let a child play with Christmas novelties around the home, but these are not toys, even if they resemble them, and they do not have to comply with toy safety regulations. Give careful thought to where you display them; place them high up on Christmas trees where they are out of the reach of young hands.

No-one’s saying to go over the top and take the fun out of your Christmas, but these are just some of the things you can do to help ensure that your festivities are not cut short by an accident.

Be aware of slips, trips and falls on ice or snow this winter.

Be aware of slips, trips and falls on ice or snow this winter.

If you head over to our Twitter and Facebook pages, you can help us to share some of our top Christmas safety tips with family and friends. Each picture features some of the many members of staff which make up the RoSPA family – and one very familiar face! We are currently running a “12 days of Christmas” countdown to Christmas day, so why not take a look?

And if you’re heading outdoors this Christmas (fingers crossed that we might get some snow), take note of the driving conditions and be aware of slips, trips and falls on ice or snow. See our winter safety hub for more details.

Have a happy time and enjoy the festive songs! “Our finest gifts we bring Pa rum pum pum pum…”

Sheila Merrill, RoSPA’s public health adviser

24 October, 2012

Reaching for your smart phone when behind the wheel? Don’t go there!

With smart phones making access to the internet and social media even easier, a new campaign warning drivers not to use their mobile phones is particularly important and timely.

All-Wales Anti-Mobile Phone Driving Campaign RoSPA Wales

Don’t be tempted to answer your mobile phone while driving – switch it off before stepping behind the wheel!

Four Welsh police forces have teamed up to launch the All-Wales Anti-Mobile Phone Driving Campaign this month (October), which sees enforcement patrols stepped up to catch motorists who can’t resist their mobile phones when behind the wheel.

The two-week campaign is welcomed by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) as drivers who use a mobile phone, whether hand-held or hands-free, are four times more likely to crash – injuring or killing themselves and/or other people.

Worryingly, in a similar enforcement scheme in Wales, in 2011, officers detected 1,000 mobile phone driving offences during a two week campaign. Dyfed Powys force area issued 429 notices, South Wales Police recorded 274 offenders, North Wales caught 168 drivers using mobile phones, and Gwent gave out 129 fixed penalty notices.

It will be interesting to see how this year’s figures compare in light of ever-advancing technology. Smart phones mean that drivers are not just making brief calls or texts anymore, but also using the internet, emails, Facebook and Twitter.

With so many more things available for you to do on a smart phone, drivers are spending longer periods of time updating a social media status and the like, when they should be concentrating on the road. More than ever, people are inclined to have their mobile phone clamped to their hand, and that is making driving with a mobile phone much more of a danger and a road safety issue.

The facts are stark – mobile phones are a significant distraction and substantially increase the risk of a driver crashing. Research shows that motorists using a mobile phone fail to see road signs, take longer to brake and stop, are much less aware of what’s happening on the road around them and do not maintain a correct lane position or steady speed.

All-Wales Anti-Mobile Phone Driving Campaign RoSPA Wales

The facts are stark – mobile phones are a significant distraction and substantially increase the risk of a driver crashing.

Inspector Lee Ford, of Gwent Police’s road policing unit, which is leading the All-Wales Anti-Mobile Phone Driving Campaign, in partnership with Road Safety Wales, is advising drivers to switch off their mobile phones before they drive and pick up any missed calls or texts after the journey, when it is safe and convenient.

Insp Ford added that “if you need to use the phone when driving, then stop at the first safe opportunity”, warning that the consequences of a momentary lapse in concentration while driving could be devastating to other drivers and pedestrians.

With many still blatantly texting and dialling in the driver’s seat, I sometimes feel a lot of motorists believe they will never get caught. That is why a timely reminder, like this new enforcement campaign in Wales, can stop drivers getting complacent and make them think twice about picking up their phone.

There are three penalty points and a £60 fine at stake, which for many drivers with points already on their licence, could tot up to mean the difference between continuing to drive and being banned from the roads.

What we need is for drivers to consider the consequences and weigh up just how important taking that call or updating a social media status really is.

For more facts and advice on this issue, visit

Michelle Harrington, RoSPA’s road safety manager for Wales

2 July, 2012

Safety behind the wheel: don’t let tiredness put a full stop to your festival fun!

The summer festival has drawn to a close and you and your friends have had a great time enjoying the live music and electric atmosphere. As the designated driver, you are responsible for ferrying your fellow festival-goers home…safely! But you’re feeling shattered, worn out from the festivities and not looking forward to the long drive ahead. What do you do?

Young people car festival tired teenagers

Driving when tired is not a smart move. Not only are you gambling with your life, but also the lives of your passengers and potentially other road users.

You may feel you can risk it and get behind the wheel anyway. This is a bad idea, not only are you gambling with your life, but also the lives of your passengers and potentially other road users. Driving when tired reduces your reaction time, which is a key element of safe driving, and with your friends in the car with you, there is bound to be plenty of chatter which will only serve to distract you further.

Driver fatigue is no laughing matter; it is a serious problem which results in thousands of road accidents each year. Research shows that driver fatigue may be a contributory factor in up to 20 per cent of road accidents, and up to one quarter of fatal and serious accidents*. These types of crashes are about 50 per cent more likely to result in death or serious injury as they tend to be high speed impacts. A driver who has fallen asleep cannot brake or swerve to avoid or reduce the impact.

The first thing that may cross your mind to help you stay awake is to reach for an emergency cup of coffee. Drinking at least 150mg of caffeine and taking a nap of around 15 minutes are the only measures that help to reduce sleepiness. But even these are temporary measures; sleepiness will return if the driver does not stop driving within a fairly short period of time. By planning ahead, particularly when driving on motorways, you can work in a series of breaks to give you time to pull over in a safe place and have a rest. A minimum break is recommended of at least 15 minutes after every two hours of driving. Remember not to stop on the hard shoulder of a motorway. Alternatively, plan in advance an overnight stop, as this will then give you the welcome option of driving for a few hours, with a break, to a hotel, for example, before waking up fresh to complete the journey the following day.

You may decide that the chances of you falling asleep at the wheel are slim, but can you afford to take the risk? Driving whilst tired makes you less vigilant and alert. It also affects your concentration levels and the quality of your decision-making.

Crashes caused by tired drivers are most likely to happen:

  • On long journeys on monotonous roads, such as motorways
  • Between 2am and 6am
  • Between 2pm and 4pm (especially after eating)
  • After having less sleep than normal
  • After drinking alcohol
  • After taking medicines that cause drowsiness
  • After long working hours or on journeys home after long shifts, especially night shifts.

Here are RoSPA’s top tips on how to avoid the risk of falling asleep at the wheel:

  • Plan your journey. Write out a route that you can read easily and/or programme the SatNav to its destination prior to setting off
  • Check your vehicle is in a safe condition before heading out on the road. Check the tyres, lights, windscreen wipers and all fluid levels
  • Decide in advance where to stop for regular rest breaks
  • Consider having an overnight break so that you don’t get too tired, but plan this in advance
  • If possible, share the driving with a second driver
  • Try not to drink the night before a long car journey. Alcohol stays in the body for several hours and will make you more sleepy
  • If you are taking any medication, check whether it causes drowsiness. If it does, ask your doctor or pharmacist for an alternative that does not cause drowsiness.

Next time you are faced with the daunting task of driving home after a festival, take time out to make sure you are fully awake and prepared – try not to give into peer pressure if you are not feeling your best. One moment’s lapse in concentration while out on the roads could be your last, but by making changes to your driving behaviour the risk of an accident can be reduced.

For more information on road safety, visit

For other festival-related safety advice, visit

*Figures quoted by the Sleep Research Laboratory at Loughborough University (“Sleep Related Vehicle Accidents”, Jim Horne and Louise Reyner, 2000) and the Department for Transport’s Road Safety Research Report No. 52, October 2004 (“Sleep-Related Crashes on Sections of Different Road Types in the UK, 1995-2001).

Kevin Clinton, RoSPA’s head of road safety

14 December, 2011

Have a safer journey on the road with RoSPA’s top winter driving tips

It is fair to say that winter is finally upon us – with more bad weather on its way. Last week, gales of up to 165mph battered the country, bringing chaos to parts of northern England and Scotland. We have heard about a couple of tragic deaths possibly related to the conditions and the Met Office has issued weather warnings for wind and snow.

Longer periods of darkness, snow, ice, heavy rain and freezing fog can make for treacherous driving conditions, as was the case particularly over the last two winters, so it pays to be prepared and adapt the way we drive to suit the conditions.

At RoSPA, we have issued some winter driving tips to help you stay informed and reduce the risk of having an accident. I have also recorded a video which summarises the tips in more detail to ensure you are fully prepared. Planning your journey in advance at this time of year could make all the difference and you should adjust your driving accordingly to suit the conditions.

 It is important that you do not get caught out by Mother Nature this year, so make sure that your vehicle is in tip top condition before setting out on the road. Check the following:

  • Lights are clean and working
  • Battery is fully charged
  • The windscreen, wiper blades and other windows are clean and the washer bottle filled with screen wash
  • Tyre condition, tread depth and pressure (of all the tyres, including the spare)
  • Brakes are working as they should do
  • Fluids are kept topped up, especially windscreen wash (to the correct concentration to prevent it freezing), anti-freeze and oil
  • It is also good practice to stock up on de-icer, windscreen wash, oil and anti-freeze and keep them topped up.

Among the most vital things to remember to check are the tyres. Make sure they are legal. We recommend that worn tyres are replaced with an equivalent new unit well before the legal minimum tread limit of 1.6mm is reached – ideally as soon as they reach 3mm. After all, the tyres are the vehicle’s only point of contact with the road and therefore need to be in excellent condition.

It is also worth packing an emergency kit, particularly on long journeys. An energy drink, blanket and the odd chocolate bar could make all the difference if you become trapped in a snow drift or stuck on a motorway overnight. We also advise carrying a shovel, tow rope, Wellington boots, a working torch, hazard warning triangle, first aid kit (in good order) and a fully charged mobile phone.

Hitting the road during the winter months should be approached with caution. If it is blowing a blizzard outside and hitting sub-zero temperatures, ask yourself, “Is this journey absolutely necessary?” Remember, conditions can change quickly and your chosen route could worsen as a result. But ultimately, the responsibility lies with the driver in determining what an “essential” journey is; just ensure you keep up-to-date with weather broadcasts and travel bulletins in order to stay one step ahead.

The key message for winter driving is space and plenty of it. In snow and ice you may need up to 10 times the normal distance for braking. That is why it pays to drive at a safe distance from the car in front. In snow, or on icy or snow covered roads, your speed should be reduced to limit your chances of skidding. Your stopping distance will increase massively, so adjust your speed accordingly.

To brake on ice and snow without locking your wheels, get into a low gear earlier than normal, allow your speed to fall and use your brakes gently.

Refresher driving training is a great way of preparing yourself for the dangerous road conditions which may may greet you on the roads this winter. Your employer may offer driver training or alternatively you can contact the RoSPA Advanced Drivers and Riders group in your area. To find out which is the nearest to you, go to

And, if you do find yourself in trouble this winter, do not abandon your vehicle. Call the emergency services on your mobile phone or from a roadside telephone and stay with your vehicle until help arrives. Stay calm and try not to panic.

For further advice about winter driving, visit or

To keep up-to-date with traffic news and information visit,, and

Bob Smalley, RoSPA’s chief driving examiner

29 March, 2011

A crushing punishment for recidivist drink-drivers

The Government’s response to the North Report on Drink and Drug Driving was published this week, and sets out a raft of new measures to tackle the problem.

In 2009, 380 people were killed and a further 11,610 were injured in drink-drive accidents on our roads.

There were 53 fatalities and 1,007 other casualties in reported road accidents in which impairment due to illicit or medicinal drugs was recorded among the contributory factors – although the true casualty figures are likely to be higher.

More worrying, though, was the number of motorists who received at least their second ban for driving under the influence of alcohol in 2009: a shocking 19,605 motorists. The problem of recidivism seems to be worsening – 13,299 motorists were banned in 2000 for a second (or third or fourth) time.

Nearly one in four motorists banned for drink or drug driving will have at least one previous conviction for the same offence. It appears that the message is not getting through to a hardcore section of society who shows flagrant disregard for the safety and wellbeing of other road users.

As part of the new measures, the Department for Transport hinted that it may follow the example of Scotland when it comes to tackling the problem of drink and drug driving. Serial offenders could have their cars seized and crushed.

The reasoning behind this is twofold: firstly, it removes the temptation and opportunity for banned drivers to blithely carry on; secondly, it impacts on other family members, putting more pressure on offenders to change their behaviour.

Other new measures to be introduced to tackle drink driving include: streamlining procedures and closing loopholes to make it easier to conduct breath tests at the roadside and in police stations; improving testing equipment; and more robust drink-drive rehabilitation schemes.

This means that people who are a little over the limit will no longer be able to ask for a blood test, thus giving them time to sober up enough to pass it. It is hoped that improved testing equipment will remove any doubt with borderline cases.

As the figures on reoffending show, the current punishments do not seem to be working, so we at RoSPA welcome more robust rehabilitation schemes. In this, as everything, education seems to be key.

On the subject of drug driving, the Government will examine the case for a new specific drug-driving offence – alongside the existing one – which would remove the need for the police to prove impairment on a case-by-case basis where a specified drug has been detected. In addition, preliminary drug-testing equipment will be approved, and procedures will be streamlined.

Drug driving is very much a “hidden” problem. With legitimate medicines, side-effects are often ill-understood and not explained clearly enough; whereas with driving under the influence of illegal drugs, the fact of their illegality means that access to facts and figures is limited. We hope that these new measures will begin to shed some light on the problem, and enable road safety professionals and lawmakers to begin to solve it.

RoSPA welcomes all the new measures set out in the Government’s response to the North Report – but they don’t go far enough.

For many years now, we have called for the drink-drive limit to be reduced from the current 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. This move was also recommended by Sir Peter North when he wrote his report following an independent review of the law.

Any alcohol impairs drivers to a greater or lesser extent, and lowering the limit would reinforce that message. The vast majority of people are well aware that driving under the influence of alcohol is anti-social and dangerous; we need to get that message through to the minority who continue to flout the law. We also need to reinforce the message that any alcohol is risky to each new generation of drivers who may think that “just the one” is perfectly safe.

RoSPA urges the Government to reconsider lowering the drink-drive limit – and not to forget that the messages need to continue for future generations.

Kevin Clinton

RoSPA’s head of road safety

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