While Bath is by no means the most dangerous place in the UK to drive, the chronic congestion in and around the city is a risk factor, and it’s getting worse.
Bath is the 8th most congested city in the country, and the number of cars passing through the centre of Bath during rush hour is still increasing by more than 1% every year.
Congestion on this scale heightens the risks of being on the road in several ways. Drivers who get stuck in jams are prone to frustration and road rage, which increases the likelihood of their making bad decisions.
Drivers who are late for work are more likely to speed, and more likely to choose alternative “rat-run” routes along narrower roads where parked cars and pedestrians pose more of a risk.
It was to mitigate exactly this kind of risk that the council introduced a number of 20mph zones throughout the city in 2014 – but a study commissioned by the council last year appeared to find that in seven of the thirteen new zones, the number of people killed or seriously injured has actually risen.
This is in line with a national trend: some studies have found that both drivers and pedestrians are likely to be less cautious in a 20mph zone, relying on the speed limit to protect them. However, it’s worth noting that the Bath study’s findings have been vigorously disputed.
In other reports, the city has seen a 23% reduction in the overall level of casualties since the introduction of the new 20mph zones, something which the council’s report failed to acknowledge.
Nevertheless, if nothing else, the council’s study shows that attempts to reduce the risks associated with congestion in Bath have so far been only partially effective. If you drive in Bath on a regular basis, and especially if you’re out and about during rush hour, it’s as well to be aware of the heightened risk factor associated with Bath’s traffic.
Safety on the roads is particularly important at this time of year, as summer turns into autumn. According to one Legal Expert, road traffic accidents spike in autumn: the average increase is 15% over the spring and summer period.
However experienced you are on Bath’s roads, it’s worth brushing up on these road safety tips for the new season, to help protect both yourself and others on the road from potential accidents:
You might well think that dazzling summer days are a bigger risk to drivers, but actually it’s the autumn sun which kills more road-users – as many as 30 a year, on average. These accidents are more-than-usually fatal too, up to two times more likely to cause a death than accidents from other causes.
What makes the sun a particular threat in the autumn is the timing of its rise and set. For a long stretch during the autumn months, commuters have to contend with the sun during their morning and evening commutes, making it much more difficult to see clearly.
Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to prepare yourself for the worst of the autumn glare. The beginning of autumn is a great time to give your windscreen a really thorough clean, inside and out.
In many cases, what reduces visibility on bright evenings is not the glare so much as haziness caused by the low light refracting through particles of dust and dirt on your windscreen. Now is also the time to get any chips or scratches on your windscreen fixed: they can cause the light to catch your eye. Check your wiper blades and replace them if they’re passed their best.
Water left on the windscreen is another dangerous source of glints and glare. It’s also a good idea to keep a pair of sunglasses in your car. When the sun’s low, sunglasses are an essential piece of safety equipment.
On Bath’s congested roads it’s especially important to remember that if the sun is dazzling you, it’s probably also dazzling the drivers behind you. If the sun’s behind you, oncoming drivers might have difficulty spotting you. Use your headlights if you’re worried about not being spotted.
Stay clear of deer
Autumn increases another big risk to UK traffic: deer collisions. Deer are involved in nearly 75,000 accidents a year, and that figure has been steadily rising over the last ten years. It’s no surprise: the number of deer in the UK has doubled during the same period.
Again the heightened risk in autumn is due in part to the low sun coinciding with rush hour: deer are always most active at dawn and dusk. However, for the UK’s largest deer species, autumn is also mating season. From October to mid-November, male deer fight one another and chase female deer in a state of high passion. They’re not looking both ways before they cross.
The Bath parliamentary constituency has one of the highest rates of deer-related accidents in the country. The risk of deer collision is highest on rural roads, but as deer populations grow the animals are found more and more frequently even on the fringes of cities.
Observe signs that indicate a wildlife crossing, but also keep an eye out for other signs. If you see one deer, slow down. There’s almost certainly another: deer rarely travel alone. Many drivers avoid one deer only to hit a second, thinking the risk has passed.
Watch the clock
Accidents increase by an average of 10% in the four weeks after the clocks go back. For those who are on the roads between 5pm and 8pm, when it’s suddenly both dark and busy, the risk rises to 30%.
Pedestrians are more likely to engage in risky behaviour when they’re walking home after a hard day at work or school, so they pose a greater threat to drivers as well. Be extra careful to observe basic road safety in the month or so after the clocks change.
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