Words & Research by Sushmita Pathak, Kavya Narayanan & Bhoomika Ghaghada
We get it, fellas – you’re running late, the traffic is horrific and there’s so much to get done back home [so many TV shows to catch up on]. We, being presumptuous, thought you might want to stick around for the next season of Sherlock, so here, we give you the key to ‘Stayin’ Alive.’
36 per cent of young drivers, aged between 18 and 24 years, have been involved in at least one car accident in the country [UAE],
says a Kipp Report from 2014.
The persistent campaigning efforts of the RTA and Dubai/AD Police deserve a standing ovation, evident in the 2016 studies reporting how accidents, injuries and deaths have decreased considerably since 2014. Imposing heavy fines, investment in road infrastructure and social media campaigns are all part of the vital attempts to elevate road safety.
What’s the problem then?
We are. Reckless behaviour on the roads, including tailgating, inattention and over-speeding, is the leading cause of fatal accidents in 2015. We dug in to see where the problem really lies.
It’s not that you’re being unsafe, it’s that you’re under the delusion that you’re safe. People who engage in rash behavior on the roads sometimes aren’t even aware of it because they’re not paying attention to their rationalizations.
It’s about psychology and the justifications you use when you’re that ‘crazy’ driver on the road – keep reading.
Don’t get it?
Think of this: You know when you’re with a friend who drives rashly, glides a passing car by a hair and promptly declares
See? Nothing happened – I told you it was perfectly safe. I’m a good driver.
This is one of the many elements of our flawed logic.
Outcome bias: He/she is using the outcome of an event to gain your trust. You know you didn’t get into an accident, they know it too and now it justifies the action of weaving through traffic. A grave logical fallacy since your survival may have been a matter of chance and the ‘calculated’ risk not worth taking.
What about all the other outcomes? You could have grazed that car, they could have been injured, you could have been injured, or someone could have lost a life.
So tell us, can you gauge a stranger’s reaction to your move accurately every time? Probably not.
Here are a few trains of thought you need to keep in check when you’re on the roads:
1. Reply to that text later, no matter how urgent it may seem
In 2015, sudden swerving caused 143 deaths.
We can’t resist looking at our phone screens the moment it beeps.
The desire for immediate gratification, based on research, is so high, that our impulse is to engage in risky behavior to gain short-term benefits. So, you can wait to read that text and have a higher probability of living or read that text and have a higher probability of dying.
Sudden swerving often occurs because of in-car distractions: looking for things in the car, applying make-up, eating in the car and fiddling with the radio.
Allow us to explain: It’s like a man standing on a ledge, determined to jump, because he cannot look beyond his immediate misery.
Remind yourself not to fall for the lure of the immediacy bias.
Sudden swerving has been the leading reason for both accidents and road fatalities in 2015, according to Gulf News.
At the risk of being uncool and alive, put your phone down and turn the music low. Keep your eyes on the road and don’t drive when you’re drowsy. It seems younger drivers are more prone to reckless behaviour on the roads. Thomas Edelmann, Founder of RoadSafetyUAE.com, comments:
It seems there is the belief of ‘being invincible’ among young motorists, which fades away the older, wiser and experienced we get.
You might like: How To Stay Safe During Pre-Iftar Rush Hour in UAE
2. Stop speeding, no matter how safe you think you’re being
In 2015, over speeding caused 82 deaths.
‘I speed often and I haven’t been an accident in the last year.’ We employ the reasoning that ‘It hasn’t happened yet, so it will never happen’ far often than we should – sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously.
Rolf Dobelli, author of ‘The Art of Thinking Clearly’ describes this as “the inclination to draw universal certainties from individual observations.” Repetition is usually a great way to make a man confident of his skill/prowess. If they’ve had close calls and survived, they think it impossible they would die on the road.
The reality, however, is that they can. So, when you’re running late for something, don’t fall prey to your own over-confidence [Also, weigh out whether you’d rather get there on time or never get anywhere ever].
On a related note,
3. Give them some space – Don’t tailgate, no matter how slow they’re moving
In 2015, tailgating caused 76 deaths [3rd leading cause of death on roads].
When asked if we’d be able to react on time and appropriately if the car in front of us came to a sudden stop, most of us would probably say yes.
Beware of the overconfidence effect where we’re likely to overestimate our own knowledge and abilities, including forecasts. It’s also called the Dunning-Kruger effect – the more you think you know, the less you know.
As we found on roadsafetyuae.com, it’s not that simple. There are 4 elements at play here and all four need to be work in your favor: Your perception time, your reaction time, vehicle reaction time and vehicle braking capability.
We know it’s annoying when you’re going on the fastest lane on SZR and the car in front of you is going at 80 kmph. Tailgating is the adult equivalent of bullying in school. This isn’t the place for power games.
Being tailgated? Get out of the way ASAP. Install a DashCam and use it to report tailgaters next time.
If you’re new on UAE roads, avoid the left lane altogether.
4. It seems obvious but – leave early
Plan ahead – Even if you know where the cameras are and you’re late for work/university, the cost of trying to make it on time by speeding can be pricey.
Beware of the optimism bias. Time-optimistic drivers tend to have an inaccurate idea of how long it will take to get somewhere, because they place less weight on the risk for negative outcomes than others. These people are typically late to every event.
Thomas tells us about their recent research study:
Recently we focused on ‘speeding’- a cause of 82 deaths in 2015 alone- and learned, that 67% of speeders claim ‘running late’ as their rationale to speed. ‘Running late’ also plays a vital role in bullying, tailgating, jumping the queue, jumping red lights, inconsiderate parking, etc. Hence, rather than tackling ‘speeding’, we need to tackle ‘don’t run late’ as the root cause for much of the reckless driving in the UAE.
Via Flickr/Crazy Diamond
5. Communicate clearly
In 2015, misjudging fellow road-users led to 75 deaths.
We often misjudge the clarity of our intentions and expect drivers around us to be mind readers. The need to use indicators while changing lanes, exiting parking, or even taking a turn, is underestimated.
Research from roadsafety in 2016 shows us:
40% find indicating is a sign of inexperience, weakness or don’t indicate out of habit.
Always indicate where you’re going. Thump the brakes even if your brain screeches when you find yourself engaging in these trains of thought. It may save your life – and a few others.
Discuss in the comments below what issues you’ve noticed on UAE roads and want to address. Tailgating, cutting queues, or slow drivers. The floor is yours.
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