With the end of the year fast approaching, many South Africans are planning their much anticipated summer holiday, which more often than not includes driving hundreds or sometimes thousands of kilometres to the beach or the bush.
Given our current tough economic climate, far less South Africans can afford to make use of air travel, which means our country’s main routes will once again become heavily congested over December and January. This, of course, plays a tremendous role in SA’s road accident rate over this period, which was standing at 500 fatalities by 21 December 2015 alone.
In a statement released in November 2016, the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) said that in the build up to the holiday season, motorists are already showing signs of non-compliance at road blocks. The JMPD also stressed that it would be locking down on those who drive irresponsibly, as well as those who break the law or partake in criminal activity.
“The festive season is supposed to be a time well spent with loved ones, but sadly it ends up in tragedy for hundreds of families every year. This comes down to not one single factor, but multiple factors that all have an effect on the December holiday aftermath,” says Jarrod Berman, Managing Director of MotorHappy. “Before embarking on a long journey, motorists need to ask themselves first and foremost if their car is roadworthy and in the best condition to take on the road, and also if they are physically and mentally fit to travel for long distances.”
Apart from taking your car to an authorised dealership for a 10-point safety check before hitting the long road, there are also many other things which motorists can do to make sure that they are considered responsible drivers:
* Know where you are going: plan your trip carefully, and keep a watchful eye on reports regarding the weather, traffic or accidents which may affect your planned route. South Africa experienced heavy flooding in various parts of the country in November, and it is far safer to postpone your trip by a day or two than to become stuck in life threatening situations. Also plan where you intend to stop and rest, ensuring that your breaks take place at least every two hours.
* Focus on the journey, and not just the destination: this means ensuring that you are well rested, alert and attentive while driving. As the driver, the responsibility will rest on your shoulders to ensure that you and your passengers arrive safely at your destination. Take breaks when you need to, and beware of impatience creeping in, which might result in feelings of restlessness, irritability or even anger towards other road users. Remember, your insurance does not cover road rage.
* Don’t pay attention to distractions: It is imperative that you, as the driver, keep distractions – both inside the car and out – to a minimum. Keep your eyes on the road, both hands on the wheel, and your mind on the task at hand even if your child drops their ice cream on the backseat, or the family dog decides to bark in your ear.
* Keep a close eye on your surroundings: South Africa has one of the highest hijacking rates in the world, which means as motorists, we need to be extra vigilant when stopping somewhere – even if just briefly. Make sure you continuously scan the roads, looking in all directions, keep a safe following distance to avoid hard braking and use your mirrors at all times. Also be on the lookout for pedestrians – particularly those who are trying to cross the highway. It is estimated that approximately 35-40% of road deaths in SA are related to pedestrian.
* Sharing is caring: This is particularly prevalent when it comes to sharing the road with those around you. Bear in mind that when you’re on the road, you’re sharing a space with drivers of all ages and levels of confidence or skills. You’re also sharing the road with learner drivers, cyclists, motorcyclists and even the disabled. Show everyone the same kind of courtesy, respect and consideration that you would expect to receive from them.
* Always buckle up: This rule applies to every passenger in the car – from the eldest to the youngest, with South African law dictating that children under the age of three need to be strapped into a car chair. A safety belt is one of your best defences in an accident, allowing you to maintain better control of your car. In many instances, safety belts save lives.
* Say no to that beer: While proper hydration is key when driving long distances, especially in sweltering heat, say no to the temptation of consuming alcohol while driving. Not only does alcohol alter your judgement, reflexes and response time, but you could also spend a portion of your holiday behind bars should you be found over the legal blood alcohol level.
“Being a good, responsible driver means so much more than just abiding to the basic rules of the road like ‘keeping left and passing right’. It also means using sound judgement, being considerate, paying attention and going out of your away to ensure that you – as well as those around you – do not end up as part of just another statistic,” concludes Berman.