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Spate of tragic traffic accidents — why?

(contributed)

Years ago, before Mr. Godwin Hulse, a mechanical engineer, served as a minister of government, he had a vehicle repair shop, and as a community service he did a show on Krem Radio, called Shop Talk. On his show he explained to novices the fundamentals of vehicles, and the basic maintenance all vehicle owners needed to have done on their vehicles to ensure they were efficient and roadworthy. He also gave lessons about safe driving practices, and about the highways, their designs and how they were affected by weather conditions.

On these extremely hot days, we are reminded about his advice to drivers to clean their windshields and wipers immediately after the hot season was over, because they would have become smudged by petroleum distillates kicked up from the melted asphalt on the highways. Maybe he said it, and maybe he didn’t, but our asphalted roads will have become more slick during this heat wave. We don’t know that that’s the explanation for all these terrible traffic accidents this past week, but it doesn’t hurt for drivers to know that the roads are less safe during this period.

The National Library of Medicine, in the article “Heat waves and fatal traffic crashes in the continental United States”, by Connor Y.H. Wu, Benjamin F. Zaitchik, and Julia M. Gohlke, said their research showed a definite increase in fatal crashes, a 3.4% “increase in fatal traffic crashes on heat wave days versus non-heat wave days.”

The authors said other researchers found that “working in heat waves diminishes human capability to carry out both physical and mental tasks … increases accident risk … leads to heat-related illnesses (e.g., heat exhaustion or stroke), if prolonged.” Drivers reportedly became more “irritable and drowsy … tend[ed] to miss signals … [and] drift out of their lane and make large steering adjustments in the heat.” Researchers also noted that “high temperatures also increase the likelihood of vehicle breakdowns (e.g., flat tires) and make roadways soften or buckle, which may lead to collisions.”

The authorities haven’t given an explanation for all the accidents on our roads and highways this past week. But it is certain that driving conditions are not the best at this time, thus drivers are well advised to be more careful.