The safety of Easter traffic is something that requires our joint efforts. Here is a recap of the proactive driver’s checklist.
Easter traffic this year is expected to be more moderate than on a usual Easter due to the current coronavirus situation. Fintraffic, the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency Traficom, the Police, the Department for Rescue Services of the Ministry of the Interior, the Emergency Response Centre Agency and the Finnish Road Safety Council are reminding us that safety on the road requires all of us to be on board. Proactive driving and actions taken at scenes of accident are everyone’s responsibilities.
Easter traffic is expected to be more moderate than on a usual Easter as most people are celebrating Easter at home due to the coronavirus pandemic. In total, road traffic volumes in Finland have been declining during the first half of the year and this is also expected to continue.
“Mobility in Finland has been relatively responsible in the beginning of the year. In January, there was 18 % less traffic on the roads and a good 16 % less also in February, when comparing the numbers with the corresponding months of the previous year. Let’s maintain this line also for the months to come in order to keep the coronavirus situation under control and get the infection rates down,” says Eero Sauramäki, Head of Road Traffic Management Centre at Fintraffic.
When heading on the road, you should always anticipate and be proactive. This means that as a driver, you should think ahead about the risk factors involved. Before starting off, it is a good idea to equip the car for spring time. This includes car and trailer maintenance and, if necessary, changing to summer tyres. It is also advisable to examine the planned travel route and driving conditions well in advance. Information on the traffic situation can be obtained from Fintraffic’s Traffic Situation service, and weather forecasts can be found on the website of the Finnish Meteorological Institute. In addition, the requisites for safe travel also include a well-rested and focused driver, adequate corona-safe breaks and unhurried travel.
Equip your car for the spring and be sure to also inspect the condition of the trailer
Spring cleaning and servicing of the car are in the agenda for many of us now that the worst mud and slush season is almost behind us and the amount of light is increasing by the day. In addition to washing off any salt residues, also the windshield and wiper blades are often in need of some attention after the hardships of winter. In addition to the car, it is also good to check the condition of the trailer after the winter.
The Finnish Road Safety Council encourages drivers to ensure that especially the car’s glass surfaces are clean and in good condition, as the glare of the bright spring sun can blind the driver in a dangerous way, especially if there is dirt, scratches, rock chips or cracks on the windscreen.
“Fortunately, you can prepare for glare issues in advance. Oil and dirt on the car windows refract the light, thus increasing potential glare issues. It is advisable to clean the windscreen and other window surfaces regularly also from the inside. For example, using a microfiber cloth or old-fashioned newspaper provides a good, streak-free result. At the same time, you should top up the windscreen-washer fluid reservoir and check the condition of the wiper blades. If the blades leave stripes on the glass, it’s time to replace the blades. With the bright spring sun, it is also a good idea to grab some sunglasses with you in the car,” says Erkka Savolainen, Training Instructor at Finnish Road Safety Council.
With the arrival of spring and the beginning of the summer cottage season, many people will also have the need to transport various goods by trailer. Before starting off, the functionality of the lights and direction indicators of the trailer should be checked, as well as the condition and tyre pressure of the tyres of a trailer that may have been unused over the winter. Adequate fastening of any trailer loads must also be ensured.
“All bulk goods must be tied properly and any dusty loads must be covered. The load must be positioned in such a way that the centre of gravity is as low as possible. You should also ensure that the loaded goods are not placed in a rear-heavy manner that could cause an uplift effect on the trailer’s tow bar. It is also a good idea to stop after 5–10 kilometres of driving and ensure the tightness of the load-fastening equipment,” says Police Inspector Timo Ajaste of the National Police Board.
Always choose tyres in accordance with the weather conditions
According to the Road Traffic Act, which entered into force in June of last year, winter tyres must be used until the end of March, on the basis of the weather conditions. However, March is not a deadline for the use of winter tyres, but studded tyres may be used even after that, if the weather or road conditions so require.
“When changing tyres, you should never think about the calendar alone, but look at the prevailing conditions. Finland is a long country, so it is also important to take geographical differences into account. The weather and road conditions at the place of departure and destination may be very different and the weather conditions may also vary rapidly in the spring,” says Jussi Pohjonen, Chief Adviser at Finnish Transport and Communications Agency Traficom.
Focus on driving when on the road
Proactiveness is also required during driving. In particular, Fintraffic’s Traffic Management Centre reminds us of the importance of maintaining sufficient safe headways between cars to ensure that traffic is as smooth as possible.
“Safe headways and keeping safe distances is a common topic during this corona season. In addition to people, it is also worth paying attention to distances between vehicles in traffic, because too often our safe collision avoidance distances are not sufficient with regard to the vehicle driving in front of us. As a rule of thumb, a safe interval between cars at road speeds and in good weather conditions must be the same in metres as the velocity reading, i.e. with a speed of 80 km/h, the distance between cars should be 80 metres. Sufficient safe headways give us time and space to react in unexpected situations. At the same time, driving itself is smoother and also more economical,” underlines Eero Sauramäki, Head of the Road Traffic Management Centre at Fintraffic.
Recap the instructions on how to take action at scenes of accident–your actions could save lives
The responsibilities of road users include helping others in the event of an accident and alerting for help. From time to time, it is a good idea to recap the instructions on how to act in the event of an accident, so that in the face of a real situation we know how to do act in the correct way.
“If you observe a traffic accident, stop at a safe place and switch on your vehicle’s hazard warning indicators. Along the side of the road, move to the accident site and try to prevent any further damage by switching off the ignition in the accident vehicle and by alerting other traffic passing by. Also remember your own safety and if it is dark, make yourself visible by using a reflective vest, for example. Always take the triangular warning sign far enough from the accident site to allow enough time for other drivers to react, and call for help and assist the injured in any way you can. If professional assistance is already present at the site of the accident, focus on safe bypass of the site, lower your speed sufficiently and do not take any photos of the accident site,” says Alpo Nikula, Senior Officer at the Department for Rescue Services of the Ministry of the Interior.
The Emergency Response Centre Agency also reminds us of the use of the 112 Suomi mobile app.
“Road users should download the 112 Suomi mobile app on their phone in case of any emergencies and problems. In emergencies, we recommend calling 112 via the app, as your exact location information will then be relayed to the emergency response services in real time and help can be provided to the site more quickly. In addition, you can use the app to call the road users’ hotline, so that your location information can be used to quickly relay any urgent information about the need for road maintenance to the correct operator. You can also get active road traffic disruption alerts and notices in your region via the application,” says Juha Viitaluoma, Planning Manager at the Emergency Response Centre Agency.