MANY may remember a harrowing short Road Safety Video, in which a little girl is slumped, lifeless against a tree, with the words “If you hit me at 40, I’ve got an eighty percent chance of dying...if you hit me at 30, I’ve got an eighty percent chance of surviving”.

Every 22 minutes someone is killed or seriously injured on UK roads, equating to almost 25,000 fatalities a year.

Worldwide, over 1.2 million die and up to 50 million are left with permanent disability annually, as a result of road traffic accidents.

It is the leading cause of death among the age group five to 29. Yet it does not have to be like this.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has an ambitious plan to halve these numbers by 2030, and thankfully there are many aspects of motoring that drivers can address to hopefully assist in reaching this goal.

The dangers of drink driving have been extensively publicised, and since 1979 the percentage of RTAs involving alcohol has reduced massively.

Despite this, according to the charity Brake, in the UK, more than 200 people die every year in a drink-drive related crash. At the maximum UK allowed blood alcohol level of 80mg alcohol per 100 ml blood, you are still six times more likely to be involved in a fatal RTA than if you had no alcohol on board.

The Government’s “Think” campaign now advises “if you’re driving, it’s better to have none for the road”.

The body gets rid of alcohol at roughly one unit per hour, so if you have had a heavy night, you may still be over the limit the next morning.

Awareness of drug driving as a risk factor for motor vehicle accidents has increased in the last few years, with a zero tolerance approach to any accident under the influence of recreational drugs, whose effects may be multiplied if also taken with alcohol.

However, prescription medications such as strong painkillers, sedatives and even antihistamines, may also impair reaction times.

Indeed, if you are driving and have significant symptoms from any condition, such that they affect your general wellbeing to a level which causes distraction, this may reduce your ability to be a safe road user.

Although the use of handsfree mobile phone devices is still legal in the UK, robust evidence shows that safety while operating these is not much greater than if a device was being held by the driver.

You are four times more likely to be involved in a significant RTA when talking on a mobile phone, this statistic including the use of hands-free kits.

Studies demonstrate reaction times while talking on a mobile phone are thirty percent slower than those at the drink-drive limit, and that it can take 30 seconds for a driver’s focus on the road to resume after ending a phone call.

Driving when fatigued is implicated in up to 30 per cent of road traffic accidents and the slogan “Driving Tired Kills” is prominently displayed on many motorway signs.

Before a long trip it is vital to be properly rested. Journeys between midnight and six am have the highest risk of accident because our bodies are naturally less tuned in during these hours. Taking a break for at least 15 minutes every two hours should be part of the journey, yet caffeine, a quick nap, raising the volume of the radio and having the windows open are only temporary measures, and not a substitute for quality sleep.

A perhaps less highlighted issue is that of driving when emotionally aroused. Operating a motor vehicle is a highly complicated series of interactions with between road user, their vehicle, and other motorists.

Driving when agitated is equivalent to being in the “fight or flight” mode. The rise in the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline prevent the individual from focussing on the multitude of subtle requirements that can mean the difference between a safe journey, and one that ends in disaster. Never drive when distressed. Either allow yourself the time to calm down or seek alternate means of transport.

Road Safety 2021 week runs from November 16 to 21.