With over 130,000 people having died in road accidents in South Africa over the past decade*, road safety is a daily worry for the country’s motorists, public transport users and pedestrians. While sadly, accidents do happen and it is unlikely that we will ever have completely incident-free roads, there are precautions South African motorists can take to keep themselves, and their loved ones, safe on the road.
This is according to Greig Hains - Managing Director at motor financial service provider, MotorVaps - who notes that there are three main factors to consider: the roadworthiness of your vehicle, general awareness of your surroundings and the actions of others on the road, as well as your own.
He suggests that, within each of these factors, there are specific tips to keep in mind and practice on a daily basis until they become second nature.
Ensure your vehicle’s roadworthiness
Hains says, “One of the easiest road safety measures in your control is the roadworthiness of your vehicle.”
“Having your car tested and taking the advice of professionals to make your car safe to drive is essential. Not only will this reduce your risk of breaking down or causing a road accident, but it can also save you money in the long run - identifying mechanical and electrical faults in the early stages, before things deteriorate and your vehicle’s more complex and expensive components such as the clutch or engine are affected.”
He adds that motorists should regularly inspect their lights, indicators, brakes, windscreen wipers, wheel alignment, exhaust system, and tyres. “Some of these components are covered under service and maintenance plans, so it is advisable to check with your motor financial service provider about what you are entitled to under your policy.”
Be aware of your surroundings and the actions of others
“While the environment and the behaviour of other drivers is totally out of your control, being aware of what is happening around you can save your life in many instances,” says Hains.
“For example,” he explains, “You can adjust your driving style to counteract bad weather conditions. If it’s raining, reduce your speed, maintain a safe following distance and turn your headlights and windscreen wipers on. If there is a lot of fog, you should also decrease your speed, keep a safe following distance and turn your lights on, as well as your hazards in really bad conditions. You should also be very alert so that you can spot any unexpected hurdles like stationary vehicles or other large objects obstructing the road.”
Hains adds that motorists should take note of what others on the road are doing. “If you detect that a particular driver or pedestrian is acting in a dangerous or reckless manner, do your best to avoid them and report your observations to authorities when it is safe to do so.”
In addition to taking steps to avoid a bumper bash or a more serious collision, Hains explains that it is important to remember that South Africa’s high crime rate means motorists are also vulnerable to criminal threats such as hijackings and smash-and-grabs.
“Be aware of which areas present a threat of criminal activity. Local authorities will often notify communities of intersections which are popular with opportunistic criminals, and erect signs to warn motorists of crime ‘hotspots’.”
He suggests that motorists keep valuables out of sight. “Put handbags and laptops in the boot of your car and make sure cell phones and wallets are not on display.”
Keep safety front of mind when taking the driver’s seat
“Your own conduct on the road plays a significant role in keeping you safe on the road. Choosing to take the driver’s seat comes with great responsibility.”
Hains adds that drivers should always abide by the below basic road safety rules:
- Do not drink and drive;
- Do not drive when tired;
- Stick to the speed limit;
- Only overtake other vehicles when it is safe to do so;
- Maintain a safe following distance;
- Always wear a seatbelt and insist that all passengers do the same;
- Be alert and avoid distractions while driving (e.g. cell phones);
- Use your lights when necessary so that you are visible to other drivers;
- Make sure your headlights are dipped when oncoming vehicles are within range of the main beam; and
- Secure infants under the age of 12 months (or up to 10kg) in a rear-facing car seat in the back of a car.
“Knowledge is power when it comes to road safety. To mitigate the risk presented by our busy highways, and often unmaintained residential roads, we can all spend a bit more time educating ourselves about what we can do to avoid dangerous situations and ultimately improve the country’s poor road safety statistics,” Hains concludes.
For more information on MotorVaps, please visit: https://www.motorvaps.co.za/.
MotorVaps, registered with Mutual & Federal Ltd, provides service plans, mechanical warranties, extended warranties and used car warranties in South Africa.
* The Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC)