• The festive period is one of the most dangerous periods for road users.
• Dialdirect lists tips that could save your life in the event of an accident.
• The insurance company implores road-trippers to be vigilant.
Many South Africans are planning to take to the roads for some much-needed rest and relaxation after what has been a particularly challenging year. But relaxing and letting your guard down too soon could open the door to carnage on SA's roads.
In a recent online survey conducted by Dialdirect, 75% of holidaymakers said that they would be travelling to their holiday destinations by car. With 1390 people having lost their lives on SA's roads in the 2019 festive season, Dialdirect Insurance implores road-trippers to be vigilant on the roads.
It is up to each of us to take proactive action to reduce road deaths, but despite our best efforts, tragedy still does strike. It is an absolute must to make sure that we are comprehensively insured so that you can be up and running again in no time.
As such, Dialdirect has put together a list of practical tips to assist you in driving right and avoiding becoming a statistic this festive season:
• Before you take to the road, be sure to check your vehicle's lights, windows and wipers, wheels and tyres, brakes, suspension, battery, belts and chains, cooling system, filters and fluids, safety and warning equipment and child car seats.
• Make sure that your load is within your vehicle's capabilities and that it is adequately secured. Tie a red piece of cloth to the ends of any object that protrudes past your vehicle's edges. All trailers and caravans are required to have a safety chain, which helps in tow bar failure.
• Ensure that you have your Covid-19 road trip kit ready - masks, sanitiser, wipes or soap - handy to use at rest stops to ensure that you and your loved ones are safe.
Good driving practice:
• Plan your trip carefully and use the technology at your disposal to avoid problem areas.
• Always keep a safe, 2 to 3-second following distance.
• Don't speed. According to the World Health Organization, you could save your own or someone else's life with just a 10 km/h decrease in speed. This small change reduces fatalities by almost 40%.
• Stop at a red traffic light and stop sign, without fail. Don't overestimate your luck, timing ability or observation skills.
• Obey the line. Even with lines permitting overtaking, always make double sure that it's safe to do so.
• Don't drink and drive. SA's legal limit is a breath alcohol content of 0.24mg per 1000ml, or a blood alcohol limit of 0.05g per 100ml. As a rule of thumb, two drinks in one hour will put you over the limit. Bear in mind that you could still be over the limit the morning after. Alternate the alcoholic beverages you do have with soft drinks or water. If you've been drinking, do not take a chance and instead call a taxi.
• Always look twice. Be especially mindful of motorcycles and vehicles without the necessary lights or indicators, or drivers who forgot to turn their indicators off.
• Focus. Avoid distractions like eating, drinking, minding kids or using your cellphone while driving.
• Choose the correct lane for the speed that you're travelling at.
• Think ahead by keeping a constant eye on the vehicles in front of you.
• Plan your turns, as well as your highway entrances and exits, well in advance to ensure that you get into the correct lane early enough. Never switch to a lane if you can't see what's both well behind and ahead of you in that lane.
• Be especially mindful of roadworks and lane closures. Allow yourself extra time to reach your destination. Be patient and pass swiftly, only when you can safely do so.
• Bear other drivers in mind. They also need to plan for your vehicle's movements, so be sure to indicate clearly and timeously. With lane mergers, a 'zipper' structure should be followed.
• Always keep an eye out for pedestrians and switch your vehicle's headlights to the brightest setting wherever possible.
• Help your fellow road users. Report faulty traffic lights, damage to roads, obstructions and bad driver behaviour hotspots to the authorities.
• Rest. Motorists should get at least seven hours sleep before a long-distance trip, and avoid travelling during their body's downtime, which for most people is between 2am and 6am.
• Plan breaks into your trip and do not drive when you're tired. Avoid having sugary or fatty snacks, energy drinks and caffeine to keep you going. Drink lots of water, eat healthy foods and pull over to rest and refresh properly when you need to.
Bikes and heavy motor vehicles:
• Always "think bike" and also keep a special lookout for heavy vehicles. If you're behind a truck and you can't see the mirrors, then the driver can't see you.
• A truck with a trailer needs two lanes to turn.
• Heavy vehicles need a long distance to stop, so avoid cutting in front of them.
If your car breaks down or you're involved in an accident:
• Switch on your hazard lights and, if possible and legal, pull into the emergency lane.
• Make sure that your vehicle remains visible – make use of your emergency triangle.
• If you get stuck in a dangerous spot, get out of your vehicle when it is safe to do so and walk carefully to the side of the road. Ideally, it would be best if you remained in your car with the doors locked.
• Call emergency services and your insurer for assistance.
Anneli Retief is the head of Dialdirect Insurance.