Stay focused at the wheel this long weekend says charity

As many people head away for Labour Day weekend, road safety charity Brake is reminding drivers to help keep themselves and others safe on the roads by following a few simple but essential road safety messages.

The charity is urging drivers to give the road their full attention, drive to the conditions, and ensure everyone in their vehicle is wearing a seat belt or appropriate child restraint on every journey.

Brake is also reminding drivers to make sure both they and their vehicle are fit to drive before setting off, and during the journey. That means having enough sleep before a journey, taking regular breaks during a trip and minimising distractions.

Brake urges drivers to take at least a 15 minute break from driving every two hours during long journeys, and to switch their phone off while they're at the wheel.

Drivers should also conduct key checks of their vehicle before setting off, including: tyre tread depth and pressure; checking all lights and indicators are working; checking oil, water and windscreen wash levels; and ensuring windows and mirrors are clean and clear.

Caroline Perry, Brake's NZ director said: "We want everyone to enjoy the long weekend and get to their destinations safely, so we're reminding drivers that making sure everyone is wearing a seat belt, and being alert at all times when you're behind the wheel is vitally important. If you're involved in a crash, wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of you being killed by 50%, so our appeal to drivers is help protect yourself and your loved ones by making sure everyone is wearing one.

"Fatigue and distractions are also risks, so we're urging drivers to pledge to take regular breaks and put your phone off or on silent and out of reach when you're at the wheel, to help save lives. Road crashes are devastating for families and communities, and drivers have a responsibility to do everything they can to keep themselves and other road users safe."

So far this year 301 people have been killed on NZ roads, up from 255 people at the same time last year. Brake is calling on everyone to help prevent road deaths and injuries by following its Pledge for safe driving:

Slow: Drive within speed limits, drive at 30km/h or lower in communities, and slow down on rural roads too. Avoid overtaking unless you're sure it's safe.
Sober: If driving, don't drink any alcohol, or take any illegal drugs or medication that could affect driving.
Sharp: Drive alert - not tired, ill or stressed. Get a good night's sleep before driving and take breaks every two hours. Have an eye test at least every two years and wear glasses or contact lenses if needed.
Silent: Phone off or on message service. Minimise other distractions such as sat nav/GPS and tuning the radio as much as possible.
Secure: Always belt up and insist that everyone else in the vehicle does the same and adjusts head restraints. If travelling with children, ensure you have correctly fitted, appropriate child restraints. Ensure your vehicle is well-maintained and serviced.
Sustainable: Only drive when you have to.

Quick reference facts: driver fatigue

  • The most common times for drivers with normal sleep patterns to fall asleep at the wheel are early morning (2am-6am) and early afternoon (2pm-4pm). These times are when the body clock reaches a natural dip, making you sleepy and less able to concentrate [1].
  • The warning signs of falling asleep include: increased difficulty concentrating; yawning; heavy eyelids; eyes starting to 'roll'; and neck muscles relaxing, making the head droop.

Quick reference facts: seat belts

  • Wearing a three-point seat belt halves your risk of death if you're involved in a road crash [2].
  • By law children must be in an appropriate child restraint until they are 7 years old, however, Brake and other experts strongly advise parents to go a step further and ensure that all children under 148cm tall are always in a proper child restraint, because adult belts are not sufficient in protecting children under this height.

End notes:

[1] Advanced Driver Fatigue Research, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 2007
[2] The Handbook of Road Safety Measures, Elsevier Science 2009

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