The World Health Organization has pegged the annual number of deaths due to road accidents globally at 1.25 million. It estimated the fatalities in the Philippines to be at 10,379, broken down as follows:
- 53% – motorcycle riders
- 19% – pedestrians
- 14% – four-wheeled vehicle drivers
- 11% – four-wheeled vehicle passengers
- 2% – cyclists
- 1% – others
These figures paint a grim and alarming picture of road safety in the country. However, most road accidents (a total of 95,615 for the year 2015 alone, as reported by MMDA) can easily be avoided and the fatalities greatly reduced, or even totally eliminated, if we only make a habit of practicing these important road safety tips.
- Before you hit the road, especially during long trips, always check your BLOWBAG – an acronym for Brakes, Lights, Oil, Water, Battery, Air, Gasoline.
For the Brakes:
You know that you have to drive to the nearest mechanic’s shop for a much-needed diagnosis when you experience any of the following:
- when the brake light appears (and refuses to disappear) on the car’s dashboard
- when the car takes longer to stop after you brake
- when you hear a high-pitched squeal or a harsh grinding sound while applying the brakes
- when the car pulls as if it wants to make a right- or left-hand turn on its own
- when the brake pedal vibrates or thrums
- when the brake pedal is non-compliant or over-compliant
- when the steering wheel shakes while braking
For the Lights:
Many accidents occur as a result of a misuse or nonuse of your car’s many lights. Know all of them and their specific functions.
- Headlights (Low Beam or High Beam) – these are turned on when visibility is low. Low Beam is used when you are driving closely behind another car, while High Beam is for when there is no car up ahead or approaching from the opposite direction.
- Parking/Park lights – these are used to increase the car’s visibility when parked in a dark area or at night.
- Tail lights – these automatically turn on whenever the headlights are on.
- Fog Lights – these are used during poor visibility conditions like fog, rain, snow, and dust
- Signal Lights – these are used when making turns and changing lanes.
- Hazard (Flashing) Lights – these are used when the driver is having trouble on the road.
- Brake Lights – these appear on the back of the car when the driver is stepping on the brakes.
- Reverse Lights (usually in high-end vehicles only) – these pop up at the rear when the driver is moving the car backwards.
- Running Lights – these automatically come on when the car is running but the lights are off.
- Flash Lights – these are used as a way of communicating with other motorists.
- Interior Lights – these are used when light is needed inside the car.
For the Oil:
The engine oil’s main purpose is to lubricate all the parts of the engine. Aside from this, it also prevents excessive wear of parts, cleans the surfaces, keeps the engine cool, inhibits corrosion, and keeps the engine sealed properly. The level (and color) of your car’s oil needs to be checked once a month. This could easily be done by opening the hood of your car, locating and pulling the oil dipstick out, wiping it clean, inserting it back into its tube, and pushing it all the way back in. Pull it out again, this time to read the oil level. If it is too low, add the appropriate amount of oil. If the color of the oil is either black or brown, or if it looks milky or foamy, it should be checked by a mechanic. (Aside from the engine oil, there are other fluids that you need to monitor regularly. Read http://lifehacker.com/five-fluids-you-should-check-to-keep-your-car-running-s-1556413981).
For the Water:
The car radiator needs coolant to keep the engine from overheating. A mixture of 60% coolant and 40% water is preferable as this provides the best corrosion protection. (For info on how and when to put coolant/water in your car radiator, read http://auto.howstuffworks.com/under-the-hood/vehicle-maintenance/how-to-put-water-in-car-radiator.htm).
For the Battery:
The car battery plays a crucial role as it supplies electrical energy to your motor vehicle. The engine will shut off and your car won’t run with a dead battery. Luckily for you, a dying battery gives off warning signs. Beware of the following:
- when the Battery Warning Light illuminates on your dashboard
- when the vehicle electronics like remote locks or interior lights randomly stop working
- when your lights are not as bright as they should be
- when your car is backfiring
- when your car won’t start unless you step on the accelerator
- when you turn the key in the ignition and the only reaction you get is a clicking or ticking noise
- when you hear the engine of your car cranking slowly but it won’t stop
When your battery is already dead, jumpstarting it is usually the easiest way to get it recharged. (Here’s the step-by-step guide on how to go about it: http://www.dummies.com/home-garden/car-repair/how-to-jump-start-a-car/)
For the Air:
Maintaining the proper air pressure of your car tires is important to avoid the potential of a flat tire or a blowout. It also helps optimize tire performance and fuel economy. When your car’s tires are underinflated, you would experience a significant loss of steering precision and cornering stability. When they are overinflated, however, they could get damaged more easily when running over potholes or debris in the road. Improper inflation can also cause excessive or uneven tread wear that can lead to an accident. The recommended air pressure for your car (usually between 30 and 35 PSI) may be found on a sticker in the door jam or in your owner’s manual; some models even place the stickers on the trunk lid, in the console, or on the fuel door. As your tires’ air pressure cannot be accurately estimated through visual inspection, you must have it checked with a quality air gauge. Tire experts suggest doing this at least once a month.
For the Gas:
Just like your body converting food into energy, a car engine converts gas into motion. So basically, your car won’t move an inch without gas. You can easily monitor the level of fuel left in your tank by consulting the fuel/gas gauge indicator that is usually found on the car’s dashboard. The needle strikes the F when you have a full tank, and E when you are about to run out of gas. Once the indicator comes on, you have to bring your car to the nearest gas station for a much-needed refill. However, if the gauge already reaches a critical level and there is still no refilling station in sight, you better start praying your rosary and heed the advice of this article: https://www.cars.com/articles/six-things-to-do-when-youre-about-to-run-out-of-gas-1420684453409/.
- Familiarize yourself with your dashboard indicators. Ignoring a warning dashboard light could not only result in a costly visit to the mechanic, but could also pose a threat to your life. Although all those lights blink for important reasons, there are five warning lights that you should never ignore. Read http://www.aa1car.com/library/5_warning_lights.htm.
- Be mindful of the traffic lights. Green means it is safe for you to cross, while Red means you have to make a full stop. Contrary to the popular practice of going faster because it’s about to turn red, Yellow indicates that you have to prepare to stop in preparation for the red light. If you are unable to stop safely, proceed with caution.
- Know and follow all the traffic/road signs. For a complete list of these signs, refer to this: http://www.affordablecebu.com/load/philippine_government/list_of_traffic_signs_in_the_philippines/5-1-0-30228.
- Change lanes with caution. It is never safe to swerve (to weave in and out of traffic by constantly changing lanes), but if you have to go to another lane for any one of these reasons (your lane is ending; you need to be in another lane to make a turn at an approaching intersection, you notice a hazard ahead in your lane; you are in the wrong lane; or you want to pass the vehicle in front of you that is going at a speed lower than the speed limit), there are steps that you should follow to ensure a safe change of lanes. First, turn on your appropriate signal light. Second, check your mirrors, then check your blind spot by looking over your shoulder. Next, slowly change lanes. And finally, turn off your signal after completing the lane change.
- Never, under any circumstance, block pedestrian lanes and intersections. If the light is green but your lane is congested due to traffic, you need to stop. Don’t force your car into the middle of that intersection. To know more about road markings, read http://www.topgear.com.ph/features/tip-sheet/must-know-all-the-basic-road-markings-in-ph-and-what-each-one-means-a36-20160429.
- Observe speed limits. Every driver has this occasional urge to unleash his inner fast-and-furious persona. However, each type of road you traverse has its own speed limits that you must follow, not just for your own safety, but also for that of your passengers, of other motorists, and of the pedestrians. Remember, speeding is a major cause of collisions. For a quick guide to these speed limits, read this: https://www.autodeal.com.ph/blog/quick-guide-speed-limits-in-philippines.
- Pass or overtake carefully. Do not pass or overtake over solid white or yellow double center lines; when there is a “no overtaking” sign; when the distance is not safe for overtaking; when you are approaching a bridge, an underpass, an intersection, or a railroad crossing; or when there is a bend, dip, or hill ahead that can obscure oncoming traffic. Additionally, overtake only on the left side of the road.
- Neither cut in nor counterflow. Cutting in (making a sudden sideways movement in order to position your car in front of another car, while leaving an unsafe distance between the two vehicles), counterflowing (driving against traffic), and tailgating (driving too close to the vehicle in front of you) are common causes of road accidents.
- Do not use the road shoulder as you would an ordinary lane. The road shoulder is designed for emergencies and emergencies only. Parking on no-parking zones will not only earn you dirty looks from other motorists, but a parking ticket as well from the traffic enforcer. Additionally, you should not stop on railroad tracks. Otherwise, you’re just an accident waiting to happen.
- Respect the Right-of-Way rules. Read more on http://ltoexam.com/right-of-way/.
- Before moving your car, wear your respective seatbelts. Many vehicular deaths could be avoided if only people, both the driver and the passengers, would realize the importance of these inconspicuous and seemingly useless belts. Remember, seatbelts save lives.
- Do not overload. Aside from the fact that it carries penalties under the law, its consequences could also be fatal. Overloading places massive strain on vehicle tires, making the vehicle less stable, difficult to steer, and harder to stop. It causes damage not only to the vehicle’s suspension and tires but to our roads and bridges, too.
- Whenever you need to stop your vehicle on an area where standing or parking is prohibited, install an Early Warning Device (EWD) at least 4 meters to the front and another one at least 4 meters to the rear. Under the law, a pair of EWDs is a mandatory accessory for all vehicles except for tricycles and motorcycles.
- You are not above the law. (Nobody should be!) So, as a law-abiding citizen, you are expected to follow all kinds of laws, rules, ordinances, and the like that govern all road users. These are designed to protect you, your passengers, the other motorists, the pedestrians and commuters, and properties and infrastructures, both public and private. You must also respect the traffic enforcers.
- Never ever drive if you are drunk, under the influence of drugs, sleep-deprived, or when you can’t give driving the benefit of your full concentration.
- Keep distractions away while driving. Even without the new Anti-Distracted Driving Act in effect, you should know that driving while using your mobile phone poses a great danger, not only to you and your passengers’ lives, but also to those of other motorists and pedestrians. Aside from phones and other electronic devices, there are many other hazards inside your car that could drive you to distraction: an unrestrained pet, a cup of coffee, the sight or even the aroma of food, a shapely leg next to you, the noise of your nagging spouse and bickering children, etc.
- Be an informed, levelheaded, and considerate driver. If you have a standing anger management problem, better steer clear of the steering wheel for a while until you have sufficiently addressed your condition. The monster traffic in our cities, coupled with the absence of discipline in many motorists, can make any driver angry – but if the person behind the wheel has a hostile or aggressive behavior, the situation can easily escalate into a heated road altercation, and may even lead to death.