Holiday times are the worst of times on South African roads. During the 2016 festive season more than 1700 people died in accidents, a five percent increase on the 2015 numbers.
Jeff Osborne, Head of Automotive for Gumtree SA, says that holiday journeys tend to be of far longer duration than routine trips throughout the year, so special precautions should be taken by drivers to stay safe.
Aside from the very obvious things like never driving when tired or after consuming alcohol, and always using proper seat belts and child restraints, Osborne says the key is to learn to drive defensively. “Good defensive driving means being constantly aware of what other drivers are doing and always expecting the unexpected. It puts the priority on getting to the destination safely and in a controlled way rather than getting there as quickly as possible.”
Osborne offers some basic steps to good defensive driving.
- Keep a safe following distance from the vehicle in front of you.
- Stick to the speed limit.
- Reduce speed markedly in poor weather, on degraded road conditions or in built-up areas where you need to be very conscious of pedestrians who might behave unpredictably.
- Be patient. Let the aggressive tail-gaters behind you go past, provided it’s safe to do so, and calm your own frustrations at a long stretch behind a slow vehicle. Wait for the completely safe moment, with proper visibility of the road ahead, to overtake.
- Be aware of blind spots. Double check your mirrors and take a quick glance over your shoulder before changing lanes.
- Don’t use your cell phone. Even on hands-free it can take your mind off the road.
- Be extra careful when changing music or reaching for an item – any moment, however brief, that your eyes are off the road is a concern.
- Keep your kids calm and occupied because, if they get agitated, then you might get distracted. Stop regularly for breaks to release any tensions.