With South African roads among the world’s most dangerous – and with increased traffic inevitable in the holidays – driving carries with it considerable risk. “Reduce your chances of being in a crash by following these ten top tips to stay safe on the road,” Nthabiseng Moloi, MiWay Head of Marketing & Brand. “Many of them are common sense or simply good practice when behind the wheel at any time.”
10 Tips to stay safe on the road
1. Plan thoroughly
While some may see romance in hitting the road ‘destination unknown’, it is typically a far better idea to invest time and effort into careful planning. Know the route, the time taken to travel it and even the ‘pit stops’ along the way. Speeding isn’t necessary, there is no need to stress about being caught short with fuel and you can avoid times of elevated danger or inconvenience, such as rush hours or driving after dark. A GPS has become a necessary tool in the modern car and they no longer cost an arm and a leg; consider getting one if you don’t already use a device.
2. Get the vehicle checked over
Nothing quite ruins a holiday like a breakdown on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. Make sure your vehicle servicing is up to date and all mechanical systems are in good condition, tyres are inflated properly and oil and water levels topped up. It’s a good idea to take advantage of ‘pre-holiday’ car check-ups which are offered by many dealers. Be sure emergency equipment is present and in good working order (triangle, torch) and emergency numbers are handy.
3. Always use child restraints
Kids love holidays and getting them there safely is your absolute priority. Always use appropriate child restraints; a child seat for children under four and a booster seat for those between four and eight years old. Studies show that children from birth to four years old involved in road accidents spend up to 70% less time in hospital if seated in a booster/child safety seat. These seats prevent children from being thrown around or out of the vehicle should a crash occur. Pack some toys and games to keep the children occupied, too – which means less stress and distractions for the driver.
4. Always use seatbelts – in the back seat too!
Forceful ejection is a major cause of death in crashes; safety belts, standard equipment in every vehicle, prevent this from happening. There is a tendency for rear seat passengers not to use the belt – but they are just as much at risk as those seated in front. Always wear seat belts to reduce the risk of serious injury or death in a crash.
5. Don’t use your cell phone
The temptation to chat on the phone and drive is substantial; resist it, even if you have a hands-free kit. Reserve your full attention for the road; consider switching your phone off so you aren’t inclined to answer any calls, SMSs or other communications until you stop for a rest or reach your destination.
6. Observe following distances
Keep a clear distance between yourself and the vehicle ahead. The two second rule means should the car in front of you stop dead, you should have two seconds to react. Test your distance as you pass a landmark – and count one one thousand, two one thousand. The actual distance that this requires may come as a surprise.
7. Don’t speed, use your indicators
South Africa has some great freeways, but that isn’t an invitation to race on them. Stick to posted limits and always use your indicators when changing lanes or making turns. By driving in a predictable manner, the chances of other drivers colliding with you are considerably reduced.
8. Eyes in the back of your head
Continually scan for potential dangers before they become a problem. Anticipate other driver behaviour, look out for pedestrians and animals, and watch for potholes. Never swerve for an animal; rather apply brakes and risk hitting it (swerving is a common cause of rollovers). Always adjust your speed according to the conditions, reducing it if visibility is poor. Being aware of what is happening can mean having the time to take evasive action – or dealing with a crash and the consequences that follow.
9. Tired? Rest!
Drivers falling asleep behind the wheel is a major cause of crashes. Tiredness or even a warm car can make you feel sleepy, so watch the temperature. When your eyes start drooping, you need to crank up the radio or stick your head out of the window to stay awake, your body is sending a clear signal that it is time to pull over and catch a nap. Make sure you do so in a safe location such as a petrol station. The 20 minutes or half hour you spend snoozing could mean the difference between life and death.
10. Don’t use cruise control on wet roads
We’re blessed with some of the best weather in the world, but when it rains, beware of the cruise control. That great weather means wet roads can be even more dangerous than usual, as oil and other debris accumulates and can create a slick on freshly rained upon tarmac. Cruise control works by maintaining power to the wheels – but that can work against you should traction be lost. Rather drive the usual way on wet roads to avoid losing control; the same applies for gravel roads. Cruise control can also make you more relaxed and less focused, so avoid using it for extended periods.
It is a good idea to save the Roadside Assistance telephone number of your insurance company on your phone in case of emergencies. MiWay clients can phone MiHelp Roadside Assistance – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Download the MiWay app to request assistance at the touch of a button, or call 08600 767 64.