going by road - still the safest way?

driving is still the safest form of transport, say motorists in a recent study. but are they right...

Given the choice of methods of transport, motorists still feel safest behind the wheel - according at least to recent research. The Green Flag-funded survey found that over half (51 per cent) of motorists felt safest when driving, while only 26 per cent felt safe travelling by train.

Motorists questioned for the report on Safe Driving said they felt the least safest form of transport was by air, with only 23 per cent saying they felt safe travelling as a passenger on a plane.

But though drivers may say that they feel safer on the road, this sense of security is not backed up by the facts. Annually in the UK there are around 3,400 road deaths of which around 1,700 are in cars. This figure compares with around 40 deaths by rail and 10 by air. This shows the risks and responsibilities when driving are simply enormous.

Still, there are a few simple rules that, if followed, will help reduce the risks to motorists, their passengers and other road users.

Never drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Put your mobile on voice mail service and catch up on your calls when you stop for a break.

Always keep a look out for people on bikes, pedestrians and on horses. Check backseat passengers are belted up and check your tyres are inflated to the right pressure and are in good shape.

Keep under speed limits in towns and villages and never set off tired or stressed.

The last point is crucial. Driving whilst being over-tired is an increasing problem, particularly amongst younger motorists. An online survey by motoring magazine Max Power has revealed that, in the last 12 months, one in three young people has fallen asleep at the wheel, and one in four frequently has driven after being awake for more than 24 hours.

One in four also admitted that being woken by crossing a rumble strip was the only thing that averted tragedy. Nevertheless, almost one in ten have been in sleep-related crashes. It seems that driving while tired is now an accepted part of life and something which young drivers pay little attention to. Research shows that 'sleep driving' is a massive problem, but with the pressures of work and home life, it is unlikely to improve.

Generally, people do it through necessity, not choice. The results also suggest that the standard of service areas could be partly to blame, as 55 per cent of respondents rated them 'a rip off' in terms of value, and 65 per cent stated they either never use them or only pull in if there is no alternative.

This is also borne out by the fact that 44 per cent said they relied on fresh air and loud music to keep them awake. Only 24 per cent would consider a short nap or sleeping over before continuing their journey, slightly more than the 18 per cent who would dose up on caffeine.

However, testing by the magazine's journalists showed that opening windows and turning up the stereo made little difference to levels of alertness. In fact, only sleep or a large quantity of a caffeine-rich canned drink produced any real improvements.