Christmas, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Most of us will be on holiday, the kids are on school break and nothing but fun, food and feeling good are planned for the weeks ahead. But the festive season is also a time of tragedy as many people are injured or lose their lives in road accidents.
Over the 2020 festive season, a total of 1448 people lost their lives on South African roads in 1210 fatal crashes. With vehicles on roads increasing during December, it is important to practice safe on-road behaviours and drive with caution, even if you are the best of drivers.
Whether you’re driving several hours on major highways to see family or braving local roads for last-minute Christmas gifts, these tips will help keep your and others on the road out of harm’s way, allowing you to enjoy your festivities safe and sound.
1. Check your vehicle
Make sure to run inspections on your vehicle before departing. Check that vehicle lights, tyres, wiper blades and indicators are all in working order. It is always wise to check your car’s oil and to inspect your breaks when travelling far.
2. Wear your seatbelt
Seat belts are the first line of defence for protection in a car crash. Studies show that 50% of front-seat passengers/drivers and 92% of rear-seat passengers in South Africa DON’T wear seat belts. Wearing a seat belt prevents you from being ejected from the car or colliding with the vehicle windscreen.
3. Don’t drink and then drive
This one should really go without saying. Alcohol impairs judgement and is a leading cause of death on roads. If you will be enjoying alcohol away from the safety of home, make sure to have a designated sober driver to ensure that you and your loved ones get home safely. Alternatively, ride with Uber or Bolt.
4. Stay within the speed limit at all times
Going too fast or too slow can significantly increase the risk of an accident. Driving too slowly increases the chances of illegal overtaking by other drivers, putting you at risk. Driving too fast makes it difficult to control your car in an emergency and harder to stop and avoid a collision. Always stay within the speed limit.
5. Phone down, eyes up
Although cellphone use while driving is illegal, many people fail to abide by the law. Using a smartphone behind the wheel is distracting as it draws your focus away from the road. With vehicles, people and even livestock ever-present on South African roads, reaction time to avoid collisions are sometimes no more than one second, so always remember to keep your phone down and eyes up.
6. Practice Defensive Driving
Not all drivers on the road are good drivers. Some may have fake or expired licenses, no licenses at all, be driving intoxicated or be driving an unroadworthy vehicle. Stay aware of bad drivers and allow them to pass you at intersections or robots so that they travel ahead and you can stay out of a potentially harmful situation.
7. Be well rested
Partying into the wee hours of the morning, then catching two hours of sleep before departing on a road trip is not a good idea. You might fall asleep behind the wheel as fatigue impacts your reaction time on the road. Try to get a minimum of 6 hours before any long-haul journey.
8. Practice COVID-19 Safety
The risk of exposure to COVID-19 is still high as new waves of infection and new variants of the virus emerge. Always make sure that you are travelling with people who are uninfected and know their status. Get vaccinated, sanitise your hands after all rest stops and wear masks in public places. If you are travelling inter-provincially, pay attention to the infection numbers of the area you are visiting and stay vigilant.
9. Drive with lights on
Driving at night is dangerous if you can’t see what’s in front of you. Always keep lights on while driving at night or in weather with poor visibility.
10. Take rest breaks
Taking one, two, and three rest breaks can reduce drivers’ crash odds by 68%, 83%, and 85%, respectively, compared to drivers who do not take any rest breaks. Always take a break after every 2 hours of driving or 200km. Have a beverage, stretch your legs and continue the journey once well-rested.