Staying safe on the road is most people’s number one priority so, who better to tell us how we can be even safer than Driver Training Standards manager at South Wales Police, Gareth Morgan?
Gareth is passionate about motor safety and says he never stops learning new skills, not surprising considering his job!
What are the worst driving habits?
According to him, one of the worst driving habits is using a mobile phone at the wheel.
A change of law, as of the 1st March 2017, now means motorists can be penalised six points and issued with a £200 fine if they are caught using their mobile phone behind the wheel.
Gareth contends there are a number of ways we can teach young drivers to be safer and more aware on the roads. He’s positive that being more educated about driver safety from a young age is the way forward, describing driving as a lifelong skill which starts with crossing the road for younger people.
At present, thanks to special funding from the Welsh Government, all 22 local authorities in Wales teach the Kerbcraft scheme to children aged five to seven. This teaches children how to safely cross the road as well as crossing safely by parked cars and crossing safely near junctions. He believes this kind of training is vital, telling us: “If young people get to grips with the psychomotor skills and safety factors at an earlier stage in life, it has been proven to be effective.”
Motorway driving for learner drivers
The government plans to extend the driving test to include motorway driving, so we asked Gareth how he believed this would impact road safety in general. He explained how he had been fortunate enough to discuss these proposals with members of the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), and believes they are appropriate.
He said: “Providing they are effectively managed and well balanced towards road safety, increasing competence levels in developing new drivers in this way is a positive step, if you consider at present, a learner can pass their test in the morning and, having never driven on a motorway, be driving along on one later in the same day.”
Pass Plus Cymru is an active scheme in Wales, which for £20 can help aid new drivers in skills such as motorway driving. However, this is optional. He also commented that simulators such as the Driver Training Simulator should be considered by the DVSA in order to allow learner drivers to use motorway simulation, lest they experience the pitfall before they get into live traffic.
Most memorable driving experience
We asked Gareth what his most memorable motoring experience has been since he joined the police force, he said: “I have seen so many things, but one particular incident has always stuck in my mind.
"It was very close to Christmas many years ago when I was in the traffic department. The road had become flooded and very quickly cars were getting stranded.
“I attended a call where a lady was trapped in the middle of the flood water. When I arrived she was in the car with the water lapping above the lower edges of her car doors. She gestured for me to come over, so I did. I waded through the water up to my knees (bearing in mind I was wearing police motorcycle leathers and boots). I got to the car and offering her a solution I placed my police anorak over her and carried her back to dry land.
Thinking how well I had done in keeping her dry, she then asked me to go back to get her handbag. Honestly, I didn’t swear but did go and recover the handbag!"
Here are Gareth’s five most important road safety tips:
1. Stay legal - it’s easy to take the risk of not doing so, but this decision can have a catastrophic effect on your future driving career - you could come to the attention of the police, or you could cause life changing injuries to an innocent person. This includes use of a seat belt and putting away your mobile phone. One will save your life, and the other could take it!
2. Have patience; don’t become a patient - we all lead very busy lives and rush around throughout the day. We routinely see now in social media reports of road rage incidents recorded on cameras, so don’t become popular for the wrong reasons. Learn not to escalate situations by your actions; a simple “I’m sorry” goes a long way to preventing incidents of road rage.
3. Be vigilant and maintain high standards - we call this in our police training OAP: Observe, Anticipate and Plan. Remember, many incidents are prevented each and every day by observant drivers who by their actions prevent others getting into difficulty. Plan for what you can see, what you can’t see and what you may reasonably expect to develop.
4. Avoid distractions - we are all aware of ‘deadly mates’, this has been proved time and time again to be a significant causation factor in younger driver collisions. Plus, with all the modern gadgets we now use in cars such as Sat Navs, Go Pros and the like, every one reduces our concentration levels, so consider their use and how they reduce performance levels when driving.
5. Follow the Highway Code - my pet hates are driving too close (tailgating) and ignoring the two second rule. Time and time again many collisions could have been avoided if drivers obeyed the simplest of these rules. Not forgetting how the weather and speed can significantly affect this measure.