With the Easter weekend around the corner, many motorists will brave the long road to get to or from their holiday destinations. Last year saw an impressive 46% reduction in Easter road deaths. This was due to the high visibility of traffic authorities and a willingness of road users to obey the rules of the road, said Transport Minister Dipuo Peters at the time.
Of the 156 road accident deaths, the main causes were fatigue, drunken and reckless driving, and pedestrian knock-downs said the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC). To avoid becoming a statistic, consider these five vital tips before you and your family hit the road:
- Do a proper five-point inspection of your vehicle before leaving home. Research shows that doing so reduces your risk of having an accident by 15%. Check (1) your windscreen for any cracks or chips; (2) your tyre tread depth and general condition, as well as the condition of your spare wheel; (3) your lights, especially headlights and taillights; (4) your fluid levels, including engine oil, brake fluid, engine coolant, power steering fluid, and transmission fluid; and (5) your braking system, including the emergency brake.
- Start your journey refreshed. According to Arrive Alive, sleepiness slows reaction times, decreases awareness and impairs judgment. “The best way to start your journey is to have a good night of uninterrupted sleep. If you start your journey tired, it’s likely you will remain fatigued throughout your trip,” says Arrive Alive’s Johan Jonck. “If possible, share the drive with someone else to allow you to remain rested and able to fully concentrate when it’s your turn behind the steering wheel again. Try to avoid eating heavy foods at rest stops, as this may leave you feeling bloated and lethargic. Follow the golden rule: Pull over every two hours or 200km to stretch your legs. Most international road safety authorities advise this.”
- Gear up for safety. You never know what might happen en route to your destination. It’s worth packing the following items in case of emergency:
- A cell phone charger
- A flashlight
- Jumper cables
- A map (in case your cell phone dies and you can’t access your GPS)
- Tools to change a tyre, including an emergency triangle that must be placed 45m away from the vehicle. If you have run-flats make sure you know their range and how to organise replacements should the need arise
- A first-aid kit
It’s also wise to subscribe to a roadside assistance plan – just make sure you know where to call in an emergency and what kind of assistance your policy includes. Ctrack’s Advanced Protector, for instance, has an emergency call-out service which will cover one hour’s labour for a locksmith, jump start, flat tyre and fuel support, as well as a bodyguard service.
And for that extra safety, some vehicle tracking products, such as Ctrack Secure, which allows the location of your vehicle to be viewed in real-time on a smart phone or personal computer by any family member or friend who you give your login details to. This allows them to see where you are on your journey.
- Drive defensively. Always be alert and think on behalf of other drivers. Jonck advises: “Avoid all distractions and keep both eyes on the road and hands on the steering wheel. Be especially alert when approaching traffic lights, intersections and level crossings, and drive with your lights on to be visible.”
- Keep an eye out for pedestrians. Pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists remain the most vulnerable of road users on South African roads, says the Automobile Association (AA). “Civic society needs to adopt safety as its main focus in order to protect the very people who subscribe to it,” it says. Be alert when seeing pedestrian road signs, and concentrate when you detect the lights of a motorcycle or bicycle.