This is the question we asked Sarah Rajalingam when she joined the IAM RoadSmart team recently as Senior Communications Executive. Read on for her reflections after 10 years driving experience.
Do you ever feel you could do something with your eyes shut? I have a few things on my list, but driving is most definitely one of them, except keeping your eyes open is the most important part of all!
With 10 plus years of driving experience, there are times when I wonder how I reached my destination, like my car has been on autopilot, as my journey seemed a blur. So, when I was asked about ‘road safety’ and ‘what it means to me?’ I had a brain rush, a flood of memories and my perspective to share.
Road safety is important to everyone, the driver, passenger, fellow drivers, your car and pedestrians. We hear so many stories of drink-drivers, drivers’ losing control, not being seen in another driver’s blind spot and many other causes of crashes that can lead to death and injury yet many of us seem to think it could never happen to us. We all have a story about someone who has been in or even passed away due to a road traffic collision.
So, for me my number one rule is to wear a seat belt; this is your personal protection and could be your saving grace, regardless of who is at fault. It doesn’t end there though. Managing speed, clutch control, keeping a safe distance between other vehicles, observing other road users, using your mirrors, signaling when doing manoeuvres and reading the signage throughout your journey is also key.
When practicing for my theory test, I remember feeling overwhelmed by the hundreds of road signs we are all expected to remember. However the more I drove and got used to A roads, B roads, motorways and country lanes on top of my regular town roads, I found without even thinking, my subconscious was able to read the signs, assess and anticipate situations ahead. Once I had mastered the above I thought I knew it all, boy was I wrong!
As a young driver (I passed my driving test shortly after my 19th birthday) I remember always living in the moment, meaning I was frequently in a rush. I would emergency brake frequently, didn’t always plan ahead and would find myself panicking if I was late, stuck in traffic or in questionable driving situations. As a result I got whiplash as well as speeding fines, parking tickets and I’d clocked a few minor collisions with other cars before I had even turned 23, resulting in sky-high insurance; a car that took unwanted visits to the garage (not including MOT and service checks) and highly disappointed parents. Not good at all!
After the novelty wore off as a new driver, I was able to reflect on my journey and mishaps. I knew I had to change my ways and remind myself that I may not be the best driver, but I can do better! I didn’t want to take a life and live with the that knowledge and guilt for the rest of my life or lose my own life because I didn’t see an oncoming vehicle. Nor did I want to be paying an arm and a leg to get from A to B due to my carelessness. All the above was a wake-up call.
So, when I was asked to write about ‘What road safety means to me’ I felt I could be transparent with my experiences and brutally honest. I had to really think about the importance of being on the road and how my actions could affect not just me, but others.
From my own experience, I feel I can fairly conclude that road safety is about patience and anticipation; for other road users and yourself. It’s about reading road signs and using all the techniques you were taught in your lessons, it’s about watching your speed, being adaptable and always vigilant. All things that are second nature to advanced drivers.
After my 10+years of driving behind my seat belt, I can safely say I am a more confident driver, with 1000% more patience. I have learned so much about myself through driving and I am grateful for the experiences that have come with it and the gift of being able to drive. Now I am ready to take it to the next level and take my advanced driving test, which I look forward to doing soon.