In 1896, a British woman in her forties was killed in a car accident because of speeding. The car was travelling at eight miles per hour! That was four miles above the speed limit. The coroner, Percy Morrison, said he hoped "such a thing would never happen again."
They could not have known that traffic fatalities would come to exceed 1.3 million a year, and that by 2020 they are expected to exceed 2 million, with the majority of victims being young men and women.
The World Health Organization describes Saudi Arabia as being number one in the world for highway fatalities. This is a great loss for Saudi Arabia in many ways. The tragedy in loss of life is incalculable. The economic losses from the fatalities amount to 24 million riyals a year. Added to this are the expenses of treating those injured in car accidents, which amounts annually to another 25 million riyals.
University of Utah researchers have developed an automobile ignition key that prevents teenagers from talking on cell phones or sending text messages while driving.
The university has obtained provisional patents and licensed the invention – Key2SafeDriving, which is one of a number of inventions to prevent reckless driving. Other inventions involve prevention of speeding and driving under the influence of alcohol. The Key2SafeDriving is being marketed to parents to prevent their teenage children from being distracted on the road.
A recent study conducted in Berlin indicates that drowsiness behind the wheel causes more accidents than drunk driving.
The habit of young drivers to focus on other matters is a difficult one to control, no matter how much advice their parents give. One young man dropped his can of Pepsi while driving. While reaching down to pick it up, he unintentionally pressed down on the gas pedal and caused the car to skid wildly until it crashed and killed him.
Another young man had just cashed his first pay check. He was so happy, he kept counting his money while driving. As a result, 500 riyals flew out the window, and his reaction to this nearly resulted in a fatal accident.
Many teenagers think that dangerous driving shows their courage. They hold speed contests with each other and perform other reckless stunts.
Traffic congestion is a serious problem in the Gulf States, and impatience is the local driving culture, especially among the youth. They may be skilled drivers, but they are not safe drivers.
Wearing seatbelts reduces the risk of death and injury by 50%, Allah willing. Nevertheless, people find it notoriously difficult to develop the habit of buckling up every time they get in the car. They are no better at strapping in their children.
Child safety seats increase the safety of small children by 80%. What we see, however, is parents letting their children hang out the window. Moreover, ignorance of first aid makes the dangers all the more acute.
People choose to drive the wrong vehicles. A high speed racing car is not the most prudent choice. Using a small car for off-road driving is equally injudicious.
Research conducted at King Saud University shows that learning to drive at too young an age leads to greater recklessness. This is because young people develop their hobbies between the ages of ten and twenty, and when they learn to drive too young, it becomes like a hobby to them, something they like to do for its own sake. This makes them more likely to go out of bounds in their driving practice, in spite of making them extremely skilled drivers.
Some analysts argue that the state of people’s automobiles is a standard by which a society’s progress or backwardness can be measured, taking into account factors like the standard of manufacture of vehicles, traffic management , and people’ driving habits. This is obvious if we compare countries like Japan, Britain, and Malaysia with the Gulf States.
How is your car? You can find a teenager with clothes strewn on the floor of the car amidst textbooks, empty soft drink cans, used tissues, leftover fast food, and a lone shoe. From your car, I will know you!
The cars of the future will wake up their drivers if they dose off. They will be fitted with eco-friendly smart tyres that can sense dangerous road condition. These cars will use cleaner fuels and report to the factory or dealership whenever something goes malfunctions.
Until such cars become available, we need to drive more responsibly. We need to pull over and rest if we feel drowsy. Manage your time better so you do not have to speed on the road to meet your appointments. Do not try to correct the driving habits of others while you are on the road. Worry about your own driving. Do not rely on other drivers on the road to be alert. Be vigilant yourself.