It's not just speed that kills - slow drivers can be a danger on Irish roads too

There are plenty of causes of road accidents. Fatigue, drunk driving, reckless driving, weather conditions, tailgating and many others.

Speeding is a particularly prevalent problem on Irish roads, with many drivers completely ignoring or being ignorant of speed limits on motorways, primary and secondary roads.

Speed kills. It's a fact.

The single biggest reason people die on our roads is because of speeding.

However, it's not only fast drivers that are putting themselves and other road users at risk.

People who drive at speeds well below the speed limit are also causing accidents on Irish roads.

In 2012, Mayo County Council launched a campaign to make people aware of the dangers of driving slowly after statistics showed that seven percent of road accidents in the county were caused by drivers travelling at speeds that were well below the limit.

At the time, Noel Gibbons, Road Safety Officer for Mayo County Council said slow drivers were unwittingly contributing to accidents.

“Motorists can experience increased stress levels and heightened irritability when faced with a vehicle driving slower than the rest of the traffic,” he said.

“The drivers of faster moving vehicles don’t have the ‘right’ to intimidate slower drivers off the road. We are just asking that drivers, whether slow or fast, to appreciate they are not alone on the road network and that they have obligations to all other drivers,” he added.

Mr Gibbons said that drivers should regularly check their mirrors in order to be aware of what's behind them and drive at the appropriate speed to the conditions.

If they are not comfortable in doing so, they should give way.

There is a common misconception that slow drivers are likely to be older people who are driving at low speeds due to the effects of ageing.

Learner drivers and people who have just passed their test are also identified as probable causes - as are tourists trying to find their way on unfamiliar roads.

These are all understandable factors in someone travelling at lower speeds than normal but if you are caught behind someone who is delaying your journey, it's most likely that they are distracted by something that has nothing to do with their driving skill level.

Mobile phones and other technologies mean that the need and pressure people feel to be constantly connected is a huge factor in driver distraction and slow moving vehicles.

Last March, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) held a conference on the dangers of distracted drivers.

Speaking at the conference, former RSA chairman, Gay Byrne laid out the facts:

“Driver distraction plays a role in 20-30% of all road collisions. This means that last year, as many as 11,274 collisions could have been caused by driver distraction – and many of these may have had serious or tragic consequences," he said.

Read the story of a woman whose sister was killed by a distracted driver.

"The message here is simple – when you’re behind the wheel of a car, your only focus should be your driving,” he added.

Minister for Transport, at the time, Leo Varadkar said: "We live in a plugged-in world where we are expected to be in constant contact, even in the car. But the reality is that when we are driving, our attention should only be focused on driving safely."

In the US, distracted driving contributes to approximately 15% of fatal crashes, as many as 5,000 fatalities every year.

In New York State, for example, slow drivers are subjected to fines if caught driving too slowly.

In Britain, an estimated 143 accidents are caused by slow drivers every year and the transport department rank slow driving as reckless driving and it incurs the same fine.

While slow drivers can be a factor in an accident, they are not always the cause. It is often the reaction of frustrated drivers behind that results in collisions.

Slow driving can cause stress for the drivers behind and tempt them to overtake when it is not safe to do so.

Knowing and understanding the possible reasons to why you may be delayed on your journey by a slow driver is important, but knowing what action to take is vital.

Here are some tips on how to deal with and safely overtake slow drivers:

Remain patient - It can be frustrating but do not put yourself or other road users at risk by overtaking in a dangerous or poorly sighted area.

Often, biding your time will result in a safe overtake or the driver in front giving way.

Don't get too close to the vehicle you intend to overtake, make use of your mirrors and ensure there is enough room to overtake.

Be aware of obstacles - Do not overtake if there is any doubt, or where you cannot see far enough ahead to be sure it is safe. Be aware of pedestrians and possible obstructions.

Follow the 2-second rule - Do not tailgate. If you cannot overtake safely, pick a stationary point on the road.

When the car in front passes this, say to yourself, "Only a fool breaks the two second rule". You should be able to say this in the time it takes for you to reach the stationary point.

If not, you're too close and you need to adjust your distance from the car in front.

Flash your lights but not repeatedly - This is often the best way to make the driver in front of you aware that they are driving too slow.

They may not be aware of the speed limit and may pull over to allow you to pass. However, once or twice is enough. Doing so repeatedly may distract them from their driving.

More tips on safe driving can be found in the RSA's Better Safer Driver document

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