Learning to drive used to be a rite of passage for young people. But the gradual improvement of public transport in South Africa, along with the rise of ride-sharing services, means that a driving licence is less of a necessity than it used to be for previous generations.
But, it is still useful to have a driving licence though. If you have access to a car, a licence is an easy way to get around whenever you want to.
It’s also an important skill to have when entering the job market; many jobs, such as sales representatives, require the applicant to have their own transport and/or a licence. And of course, one can make an entire career as a driver.
For people looking to get a licence, here' some advice.
- Firstly, as we have seen widely reported in the media, we all know how easy it is to buy a licence, but don't think of it. Driving is one of the top causes of unnatural death, and if you don't get the right training before you venture out on the roads, your crash risk is extremely high.
- Get proper training and pass the driving test legitimately, so that when you use the roads on your own, you're equipped to recognise danger and prevent emergencies.
- Driving schools are the best way to learn the skills you need.
- Pick a reputable driving school, and look for one that has been in business for many years. Check online to see what others think of their service.
Another important thing to do is to ensure your instructor has a current, valid instructor's certificate, issued by the licensing authorities, and that their vehicle is clean, presentable and roadworthy. A driving school which is a member of SAIDI (the Southern African Institute of Driving Instructors) will give you extra peace of mind, because SAIDI members have access to additional training and updates to legislation. If you are not satisfied with the service from your driving school, change to a different one.
Driving is one of the most dangerous responsibilities you will have in your adult life, make sure you learn it from an expert who has your best interests at heart. Once you have your driving licence, it's easy to discard all that was taught at licence level and drive the way you please, but we advise against that.
The content of the driving test is only a framework of basic skills. Good drivers actively work on improving their skills throughout their driving career, by reading up on new developments in safety and technology, and attending training courses. Also, do not rely on learning by 'experience' – a situation which requires 'experience' could happen just days or weeks after you get your licence.
Our three main hints to new drivers are a summary of the most important skills taught before the driving test.
- Firstly, always check your blind spot before manoeuvring. Even in modern cars with blind spot monitoring systems, the car might not be able to alert you to a vehicle on a collision course with your own at a merge area or more than two lanes away.
- Checking your blind spot helps prevent many different kinds of crashes, including rollovers, sideswipes, and loss of control which could lead to heavy impacts with objects at the roadside, like barriers or trees.
- Secondly, always maintain a following distance of at least two seconds, or longer in poor visibility or rainy weather. This gives you time to react to changes in the traffic and use your car's safety systems to best advantage.
- Thirdly, always drive at a sensible speed for the conditions, which can sometimes be lower than the speed limit.
If you drive too fast for conditions, you won't be able to stop or swerve in time. Inappropriately low speed can be just as dangerous, so make sure you don't endanger other traffic by driving too slowly on high-speed roads like freeways.
It’s also important to note that drivers who constantly improve their skills are less likely to crash.
Better driving depends on knowledge. Make sure you improve your knowledge for as long as you drive.