How to Prevent 'UFO's' in your Vehicle

24 October 2014 - By Eugene Herbert - The RAC Group

Hi Folks…

Isn’t it amazing how many things we take for granted – everyday things that we interact with on our daily drive, be it during the day or even at the end of a day’s commute from the office. In many instances these are external influences – such as traffic lights - and until they cease to function in the way we expect them to, we don’t notice anything. This is no different in the interior of our vehicles.

Drivers end up keeping many items within arm's reach( for convenience )   while driving, such as sunglasses, coffee flasks , smartphones, even tablets; however, there is a latent  danger in keeping these items nearby instead of ensuring they're properly stowed while driving.

At 80 kph, a sudden stop caused by a crash will propel a loose, 450 gram bottle of water and land a blow on a vehicle occupant with the equivalent force of a 10 kilo object, imagine what a laptop could do to you? It would be painful at a minimum, or, even worse, a hit to the head could cause someone to blackout."

For the majority of drivers the dangers of loose objects is never factored in on their risk assessment.

A well-known training organisation in the states refers to these as ‘UFOs,' or unnecessary flying objects.

Unfortunately we don’t have any stats in SA but a 2012 study by Safety Research and Strategies in the US found that ordinary objects in cars and trucks are responsible for 13,000 injuries each year.

Putting aside  the issue of direct contact and harm to the driver of a vehicle, the hazards related to emergency braking when loose objects  fly around are extremely serious .When a situation  arises that  requires a driver to engage in emergency braking procedures this manoeuvre sometimes is not completed . On investigation this isn't because the driver lacks the requisite, the skills or an escape route, but simply because a loose object becomes lodged under the brake pedal.

Similarly, drivers can momentarily become visually distracted (impaired) by an object catapulted through the cabin or by liquids spilling onto him or her.

And, while loose objects add to the risk of a dangerous injury or fatality during a crash, Safety Research and Strategies estimated a driver's risk of dying in a car accident increases by 25 percent if there are unrestrained passengers in the vehicle.

As a driver — in addition to securing loose objects to stay safe — make sure your passengers do not have the potential of becoming 'UFOs.' Insist that everyone buckles up before you start your trip – especially children, even if their resistance is emotional blackmail. Non-compliance is not an option.

Tips that could   prevent an encounter with a UFO include:

• Keep all bulkier, heavier items stored in the vehicle's boot or use storage net in the case of a SUV.
• Unless an item (such as a GPS device) has a secure clip-in system, store all such items in a closed compartment.
• When spec'ing vehicles, ensure proper storage options are provided if drivers typically must carry files and/or lap tops with them.
• Place those water bottles  in the compartments provided – a round bottle has the uncanny ability to roll into the most awkward places

Bottom line, drivers must be made aware of the often forgotten, but potentially fatal danger of loose items in a vehicle during a crash or sudden braking action. Include instructions in the fleet's policy directing drivers to secure all loose items before operating a vehicle.

Question – is this covered your company vehicle policy?

Till next time - Drive Safe and avoid the UFO’s.

Eugene Herbert
Group Managing Director
The RAC Group

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