According to the World Health Organization, more than three thousand people die from road traffic crashes every day.
It's a terrible way to die: One moment, you're telling your family that you'll see them that night; the next moment, you have a split second to realize you won't be able to keep that promise, and you're not even going to have the chance to say good-bye.
This is the danger that most of us face every single day of our lives. Fortunately, there are ways to minimize the risks, aside from the obvious stuff such as wearing your seatbelt and not driving drunk.
1. If you must use a motorcycle, adopt a "never too good" mindset. No motorcyclist is too good to be trained. Always take the opportunity to learn more about how to use your vehicle safely—because, stop lying to yourself, whenever you ride your motorcycle, you are putting yourself in a position to get killed.
Consider the facts: although only 1 out of every 100 people on the road is riding a motorcycle, 19 of all people who die on the road are motorcyclists.
According to the UK Department of Transport, motorcyclists are 38 times more likely than car riders to get killed on the road. It's as if Fate were a sharpshooter with 39 bullets that she randomly fires at people on the road, and 38 of those shots are aimed at motorcycle riders.
In all honesty, the topic of motorcycle danger is so huge, it deserves an entire article all to itself.
But let us attempt to summarize a few lifesaving points:
- Get formal training on how to use your motorcycle. This is of foremost importance. There are a lot of things you don't know about safe motorcycling, but you won't know that you don't know them until you attend training.
- Wear brightly colored reflectorized gear. Make sure you're always visible to other road users.
- Use a high-safety-rated helmet at all times. Even in private villages, something can cause you to suddenly swerve and fall and hit your head on the sidewalk and die. I've seen it happen.
- If you have a tendency to get dreamy or absentminded, forgo the motorcycle altogether. Motorcycling requires you to be alert, observant, and defensive at all times. That one second of your mind flying away to some dreamland could easily be the last second of your life.
2. Stay below the speed limit. One extra kilometer per hour can mean the difference between life and death. Yes, one measly kilometer.
Remember that one kilometer is a thousand meters. For you to be driving one extra kilometer per hour over the speed limit, you have to be covering an extra 0.28 meters, or nearly one foot, per second.
Following that logic, we can see that between the person driving at 60 km/h and the person driving at 61 km/h, the speeder would hit within one second what the law-abiding driver would miss by nearly a foot.
3. No phone calls. Don't make them, don't take them. Not while driving. Seriously!
If you pride yourself on being responsible enough to not drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, here's are a few things you must realize:
- People who take or make calls while driving are more likely than drunk drivers to get involved in a crash. To put it succinctly, yes, you're worse than drunk.
- No significant safety improvement has been found in using hands-free mobile devices. Regardless of whether you hold your phone or not, if you're talking on it while driving, you're setting yourself up for trouble.
- Most drivers say they find no added difficulty when they drive while on the phone—and yet, the measurable evidence shows their driving performance is worse anyway. There is clearly a huge gap between the driver's self-perceptions and their actual driving performance.
4. Don't drive tired. Drunk drivers have impaired judgment. Phone-calling drivers have terrible reaction times.
But tired drivers fall asleep. And if there's one thing more dangerous than driving with impaired judgment and slow reaction time, it's driving with your eyes closed.
While we can't always avoid driving while we're tired, we can minimize the risks that we'll fall asleep on the wheel:
- If you're going on an extended drive, plan to have a break every two hours.
- If you're already feeling tired before the trip even starts, hold it off. Wait until you're feeling more rested.
- If you begin to feel sleepy in the middle of a drive, find a safe place to stop. If you can catch a nap, do so. Otherwise, get a caffeine boost, then wait 15 minutes for its effects to kick in before continuing your drive.
5. Look both ways. It's not just drivers that are in danger on the road. Pedestrians are at risk too, and since they don't have a hard metal case on four wheels to protect them, their injuries can be more severe.
Pedestrians' risks are highest when they are crossing the street. ALWAYS look both ways when you cross the street.
Some people look only at the side where they expect cars to be coming from. This makes them likely to get hit by overtaking drivers on temporary counterflow.
Almost all of these recommendations can be done with very little effort, but taking heed of them can make a huge difference in your life and the life of others.
For one, following these tips can help you stay alive on your way home from work so that you can fulfill that implicit promise you made to your family this morning, that you will see them again tonight.