How to stay safe on South Africa’s roads

Staying safe on South Africa’s roads | AA

Did you know that South Africa has the tenth largest network of roads in the world? To put it in context, if you had to drive every road in the country, you would be adding 746,978km to your odometer, according to South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral).

With so much road available, and with so many cars on the road, it’s important to keep safety in mind when you’re travelling.  Whether you are on your daily commute to the office, zipping through traffic on a motorbike, or pulling a trailer or caravan on your family holiday, here are some road safety tips to keep in mind.

  • Make sure your car is roadworthy. You are as only as safe as the vehicle you travel in; here’s our roadworthiness checklist.

  • Keep your driver’s licence and AA Membership details on you at all times when you are driving.

  • Rest before you drive, especially long distances. Sit up straight in the driver’s seat, make frequent stops, and keep a bottle of water close, so you’ll stay hydrated.

  • Keep your valuables locked in your boot and not visible to people walking past your car. .

  • Obey the speed limit, keep a safe following distance from the car ahead of you, and look ahead for obstructions in the road, especially if you’re driving at night.

  • Keep an eye on the other vehicles on the road.   

  • Always have an alternate route planned. If you are unfamiliar with the road, keep a GPS device or old-school roadmap in the car.

  • Always buckle-up no matter how short the distance is you’re travelling - and ensure children under the age of three are also in a child restraint or, if they are older, in booster seats. It’s the law.

  • If you need to stop next to the road, pull off as far onto the shoulder of the road as possible before getting out of your vehicle. Call the AA for assistance if necessary on 0861 000 234.

Top tip: if you’re going on a long trip, sign up for our alerts on road conditions

Trailer and caravan road safety tips

  • Adding a trailer or caravan increases your risks on the road, especially if you’re inexperienced.

  • Familiarise yourself with the road rules and laws that apply to trailers and caravans.

  • Invest in a good quality tow bar that is fitted correctly, and check that it’s the right make and model for your trailer or caravan.

  • When hooking up, test the brake and indicator lights on the trailer or caravan to ensure they are working.

  • Check that the number plate is properly displayed and securely affixed and that you have the registration papers for your trailer or caravan in your car with you.

  • A good rule when towing is that that your car needs to be heavier than the load you’re towing. Consult the owner’s manual of your trailer or caravan, and that of your vehicle, to see the maximum weights allowed.

  • Be extra cautious when changing lanes, overtaking, and parking, and give other road-users plenty of indication of your intent. Practice reversing your vehicle with the trailer or caravan attached.

  • Maintain a slow and steady pace on the roads, and give your vehicle plenty of time to climb hills, make turns and come to a complete stop.

Top tip: Make sure your trailer and caravan are insured.

Motorbike road safety tips

  • Gear up! Most motorcyclists are familiar with the term: ATGATT i.e. “all the gear, all the time”.

  • Be aware of other vehicles around you on the road or highway. Don’t assume that other road users can see you on your motorcycle.

  • Give yourself time to react by maintaining a safe following distance.

  • Look out for vehicles about to change lanes and try to stay out of their blind spots. Don’t drive directly behind large vehicles like SUVs and trucks.

  • Stay left, unless you need to overtake a slower vehicle. When you need to overtake, change lanes or turn, be sure to signal clearly.

Read about more motorcycle safety tips.

While you can’t control the actions of other road users, you can keep your vehicles in a good condition, follow the rules of the road, and be a responsible road user.