How to steer clear of danger

2009-09-05 10:28

BEING able to drive is not just about getting from point A to B. It

is about anticipating what the next motorist will do and knowing what to do in

the event of an accident or emergency.

Most new cars are fitted with standard driver-assist systems and

it’s important that drivers know about such aids and understand their purpose.

Motorists should also know when such aids can and should be used.

Mark Allison, an instructor with Audi Driving Experience SA, says

motorists should have a quick look for tyre damage and air pressure and adjust

all mirrors for good visibility.

Allison says seat adjustment is key to ensure that drivers sit

correctly in an upright position, not too far from the pedals or steering wheel

and not too high.

We asked him a few questions.

What should a driver

do when a vehicle stops suddenly in front of you?

MA: You should immediately brake and then swerve if possible into a

clear ­area either to the left or right if needed.

Vehicles with anti-lock brake systems (ABS) will be a lot safer as

this system allows you swerve while braking as hard as ­possible. Remember that

good observation and awareness would ­normally stop this situation ­from


If you have a

tyre-burst, what should you do?

MA: Should this happen, very gently ease off the accelerator and

very gently steer to the shoulder of the road making sure to indicate and look

out for other traffic. If necessary brake very lightly, but try and slow down as

gradually as possible.

Remember tyres do not burst for no reason. The number one cause of

tyre burst is overheating from under inflation. If you are not sure of your

correct tyre pressure rather put a bit more air into your tyres.

Too little pressure can be ­lethal, too much pressure will ­only

make a slightly harder ride. The chances of a properly inflated name brand, with

legal tread results in an almost zero chance of a tyre bursting.

When roads are wet

and a driver loses control of the car due to aquaplaning (aquaplaning is when a

car’s wheels lose traction in wet conditions. This will happen when driving too

fast, the tyre ­pressure is not correct or if the tyre is not in a good

condition) or anything else like that, what can be done?

MA: Not much can be done. Loss of control from aquaplaning usually

means waiting until you stop against something.

Preventing the aquaplane in the first place is desirable. To do

this you need to straighten the wheel immediately when you ­become aware of the

aquaplane and leave the pedals until control is ­regained.

The problem with aquaplaning is that unless you know what it feels

like and have practised correcting for it not much can be done.

Practise on a specially designed aquaplane circuit is the only way

to really prepare yourself for aquaplane situations.

What should a driver do if hit while stationary in their vehicle? Rob Handfield-Jones, of, says

when drivers are hit by another car while they are in a stationary position,

they ­often regard the crash as unavoidable.

“Many of these crashes can be avoided by better observation,”

Handfield-Jones said.

“When stopped, keep an eye on your mirror for cars that aren’t

going to stop. Watch oncoming traffic, or cross-traffic at an ­intersection for

vehicles out of control,” he added.

Lastly, he advised that motorists should always have an ­escape

route ready to avoid such vehicles and be prepared to use it in an


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