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Car accidents: reaction time and braking distance

August 19, 2012

‘CAUSE and effect theory’ is a universally tasted theory. This means that no effect is possible without a cause. The physicians (hakims) of olden times used to find the nature of the disease (cause) through symptoms (effect). In the modern age, diagnosing a disease has become much easier due to the availability of sophisticated machines, gadgets and laboratory tests.

However, the application of ‘cause and effect theory’ has been broadened to resolve different other problems like accidental deaths. With the increase in population, the rate of accidental deaths is increasing throughout the world but it is comparatively extremely high in Pakistan.

The cause of death varies with the nature of accidents, e.g. car accidents, accidents of fire due to short-circuiting or explosion of the material stored for making fireworks, explosion of gas cylinders, collapse of buildings, bomb explosions, drowning in water, etc.

A lot of deaths could be easily avoided by recognising the cause of these accidents and their proper control. Human carelessness is a common factor in the majority of accidental deaths in Pakistan. Since different types of accidents cannot be discussed here, let us discuss car accidents and its main causes.

This would have a healthy effect on the drivers many of whom are ignorant. This effort may likely reduce the number of accidents as well as the casualties involved. Some of the causes for preventing car accidents are briefly mentioned as follows: First, the car must be in perfect condition, especially where lights and brakes are concerned. The mirror to see behind the car must be in proper position.

Second, the age of the driver must be 18 years or above. He must be mentally and physically fit. The driver’s whole attention must be concentrated on driving and not diverted elsewhere like talking on cellphone or talking to a friend seated next to him.

Third, the driver must have proper training of driving and must possess a valid driving licence. He must also have proper road sense.

Fourth, there are some other important factors which are generally involved in car accidents: fast and erratic driving, abrupt braking, frequent changing of lanes and the wrong use or under-use of the indicator.

Fifth, the driver must be familiar with the terminology of ‘reaction time’ and its relation with ‘braking distance’. This has clearly been explained as to how it works.

Our brain controls all the faculties, including seeing, hearing and limb movements and their coordination as per need. The ‘reaction time’ is the time taken by the driver from the time of observing a hurdle and stopping the car. This involves several stages: (a) observing a hurdle, (b) the message is carried to the brain, (c) the brain instructs the foot to brake, (d) the foot obeys the orders of the brain and the brake is applied and the car comes to a halt.

The total time taken to complete the process from (a) to (d) in continuity is known as ‘reaction time’. The whole process requires complete mental attention and physical synchronisation. It is important that a reasonable distance must be maintained between your car and the car in front so that rear-end collisions may be avoided.

The international rule is to keep a distance of one car-length for each 10 miles an hour increase in speed. For example, four different cars are driven at the respective speeds of 10, 20, 30 and 40 miles an hour. Their respective distances from the car in front must be maintained at no less than one-, two-, three-and four-car lengths. This practice helps mainly to avoid rear-end accidents.

It is expected that the information contained in the above-mentioned text would prove helpful in cutting down the number of car accidents as well as in saving a huge number of lives.