Human Error

4 September 2015 - By Eugene Herbert

Hi Folks…

There was a time when
it was believed that human error accounted for 80% of crashes. Sadly it appears
that the statistic is somewhat out of date as the latest research from the UK
seems to indicate that 90% is the norm.

 All too often we
insist on blaming external factors. However, the reality is that it’s often us
– the driver - at fault. In fact, it’s estimated that 95 per cent of crashes
are actually due to human error. The other 5 per cent can be split between
mechanical failure (which doesn’t include a worn tire or faulty brakes, as that
still counts as human error!) and something that could not have been prevented
or predicted, such as a tree falling across the road or an airplane crashing on
the road. So let’s see why human error is such a major cause of road crashes,
and how adapting our behaviour can prevent them from happening…

Driver Skill

The first area to
consider is the skill the driver has in controlling the vehicle. While most
drivers have reasonable driving skills, and are able to make the vehicle go
where they want it to without colliding with anything else, this is generally
only the case when they have enough time and they are concentrating on the
task. Whether or not a driver has had professional driver training/lessons, or was taught by
family or friends, once the psychomotor skills associated with driving such as
pressing the brake, finding the biting point of the clutch and using the
steering wheel are mastered, driving a vehicle becomes relatively easy. Loss of
control will always feature in a crash
but it is rarely the root cause.

Reacting to rules

The second area to
consider is how drivers interpret and adhere to the rules of the road.
Irrespective of how well read they are, most drivers are aware of and
understand the greater  majority  of the rules ( certainly the 
speed limits ) and procedures but they don’t always follow them. After all when
learning to drive many of us are taught how to follow the rules to pass the
test, the question is, what weren’t you taught during your lessons? Were you
taught about being considerate to others and how to avoid feeling road rage?
Did your instructor teach you all about time management or dealing with and
managing fatigue? By learning to effectively
manage factors like these,
we can
become safer, better road users.

Context is everything

It is estimated that in
SA we have some 9 million registered vehicles on our roads – let’s not forget
those that should be counted which ‘visit’ us.   This leads us on to
the third area to consider: the reason and context of the journey. When you’re
stuck in traffic or waiting for that green light, do you ever wonder why the
driver in the next car is on that piece of road at that moment in time and what
pressures they may be affected by? It could be a familiar journey for them and
they may have become complacent, losing focus on the driving task. It could be
an unfamiliar journey in an unknown town and they may even feel anxious, trying
hard to fit in with and assess the traffic flow, gathering and processing high
volumes of information and making quick decisions. The driver may also feel
under pressure to drive in a particular way, such as the obligation they may
feel to arrive on time, perhaps to catch a

plane or maybe a job interview or even the peer pressure of a
passenger in a similar
situation. Whatever situation we find ourselves in on the road, we use a lot
more than the basic car control skills we developed when we were learning to
drive. After all, stopping a car should be easy; we’ve been able to stop the
car since day one of our driving lessons. So why do so many of us nip through
on orange  and why do so many drivers end up using the rear bumper of the
vehicle in front to stop? Is it due to their poor car control skills or
something far more dangerous?

What really matters?

This leads us on to the
fourth, final and probably most important area to consider: attitude, beliefs
and the way we choose to live our lives. Everyone has a set of values and
motivations that guide us through life. These same things also influence and
drive certain behaviours when we’re behind the wheel. If you’re a methodical,
laid back and relaxed person, you’re likely to drive differently to an
impulsive, bungee-jumping adrenaline junky. We all have personality traits that
are conducive to safe driving and those which perhaps are not. It is up to us
to be honest, to recognize which is which and crucially,
do something about it.

To conclude, our
personality and the way we choose to live our lives will usually always inform
the context of the journey, influence whether we choose to follow the rules and
procedures and maintain the best vehicle control we are capable of. The true
root cause of almost all crashes is the behavioural
we as drivers make every
time we drive.

With such sobering
thoughts – Remember, Drive Safe and keep your cool.

Eugene Herbert

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