Celebrate Youth Month by being a safe driver

Official data indicates that around 15 million South Africans have driving licences with around one and half million of these drivers being Learner Drivers. As the country celebrates Youth Month, the Automobile Association (AA) calls on parents and guardians of young drivers to prepare them properly for driving by assisting them to acquire the skills and mindset to become safe members of the road user community.

While many young people today rely on public transport or ride-sharing services to keep mobile, driving remains an important and useful skill, especially as it may be a requirement for many jobs.

“Apart from allowing people to be independent and quickly mobile, many people can make a career as a driver, so it is worth the time and effort to legally obtain a driving licence. Unfortunately, it’s too easy to buy a licence but don’t ever think of doing this. Driving is one of the top causes of unnatural deaths and without the proper training – and practice and experience – the crash risk is extremely high. Without a valid, legal licence, you can be in serious trouble if you are involved in a crash, especially a fatal crash,” the AA warns.

If you are a Learner Driver and looking to get a licence, the AA offers the following tips:

  • Get proper training and pass the driving test legitimately. Scour the internet, speak to friends and family, and do your homework to identify a reputable driving school which has been in business for some years. A driving school which is a member of the Southern African Institute of Driving Instructors (SAIDI) will give you extra peace of mind.
  • Get the right instructor and driving school. Check that your instructor has a valid instructor’s certificate and that the vehicle they are using to teach you in is clean and roadworthy.
  • Be patient. Not everyone will be able to drive in the first few weeks. Rather spend more time now learning and becoming a better driver, than rushing through the process just to obtain a licence when you are still uncomfortable behind the wheel.

In addition, the AA says young drivers should continue to be careful when driving on the open road, even if they have been driving for a couple of months.

Some additional tips for young drivers from the AA are:

  • Keep your car in good condition. Make sure your engine, brakes, tyres, and indicators are all working properly. The AA offers a 125-point check to ensure your vehicle is always in the best condition.
  • Keep calm while driving. Driving can be stressful, but it is vital that you remain as calm as possible during your journey. Also be confident on the road, and drive like you belong there. Remember, too, that if you constantly apply your brakes unnecessarily you will create a concertina effect of stopping behind you, which is one of the biggest causes of traffic snarl-ups.
  • Know your route. If you have never driven on a highway before, it’s important that you practice first. Pick a date and time when the road is likely to be least busy such as a weekend. Also listen to local traffic reports and monitor social media for possible problems on your route. If you are an experienced driver, have a back-up route if possible.
  • Know the rules of the road. Rules are there to protect everyone, and it’s important that we all obey them. Understand the markings on the road, and when you can, or cannot, change lanes. Also always indicate your intentions by using your indicators.
  • Learn to operate your car at low speeds. Many times the road is congested and cars travel at slow speeds. Make sure you know how to drive at a slow speed, and in start-stop traffic.
  • Enter the highway safely. When merging with traffic always check your rear-view mirror and side mirrors and check your blind spots to ensure it is safe to join. Always use your indicators and enter the traffic at the same speed as flowing traffic. Driving too slowly or too fast can cause problems, so always be alert.
  • Put away all electronic devices. Driving requires your full attention. Do not be distracted with cellphones, or any other electronic devices. Be respectful of other drivers who also want to reach their destinations safely and on time. Texting while driving is extremely dangerous.
  • Keep a safe following distance. It’s not always possible, especially in bumper-to-bumper traffic, but maintain as safe a distance as possible from the car in front of you. Drive according to the conditions of the road and remember you are not there to enforce the rules of the road, only to obey them. Also be aware that you may travel some stretches with a clear road ahead of you, but suddenly find heavy traffic further up. Always be alert to this, and make sure you leave enough room to slow down and stop if necessary.
  • Always wear your seatbelt. Just because traffic is slow it doesn’t mean that you can unlock your seatbelt. Remain in your seatbelt throughout your journey and remember that your passengers also need to be secured. It’s the law that toddlers under three must be in a car seat.

To ensure complete peace-of-mind motoring the AA advises that younger drivers also have a roadside partner they can rely on to assist them when needed. AA Aspire is a product tailored for drivers aged 35 years or younger and the Roadside Assistance offers cover for the driver not the vehicle which means you can access support even if you’re driving with a friend. Additional services include accident towing, a vehicle locksmith, flat tyre change assistance, battery tests and jump starts, and overnight storage of a vehicle if needed.

“South Africa has a high number of fatal crashes and deaths every year so it’s important that young drivers who may still be tentative operating a vehicle are extra vigilant when driving. Driving is a privilege and not a right, and younger drivers should understand that they are responsible for their own, and other drivers’ safety, when they are on the road. It’s also important that young drivers are properly covered in terms of roadside assistance services in case they need them,” the AA concludes.