October is transport month in South Africa, and a good opportunity for all motorists to reflect on their driving behaviour. This is especially important as we look back on developments on our roads in 2016.
According to figures from the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), 14 071 people died on the country’s roads last year, the highest annual road death toll since 2007. According to the statistics, human factors are indicated as the biggest contributor to road crashes and fatalities, accounting for 77.5 percent of contributing factors.
But, what are we to do about this?
For a start, it’s important for conscientious drivers to ensure their vehicles are in good working condition. Mechanical problems occur on mechanical components and for this reason, drivers need to make sure their vehicles are running properly. Regular servicing of vehicles is critical, as is general maintenance of the interior and exterior.
An often overlooked critical safety item on vehicles is tyres. They are the only thing between you and the road, and because of this, ensuring their continued good condition is vital. Any tyres that are bald, or under or over inflated, can be dangerous.
In terms of Regulation 212 of the National Road Traffic Act, tyres must have at least one millimetre tread, and if it falls below that figure, motorists could be fined. Some tyres have wear indicators in the tread pattern to show when the tread depth is less than 1.6mm. In these cases, if the tread on the tyre is level with these indicators, the tyre must be replaced as it is considered unroadworthy. Worn tyres will also have an impact on the ability of the vehicle to stop properly, posing yet another danger to you and other road users.
Another important maintenance routine is to check that your tyres are inflated properly. Under-inflation can cause tyre bursts. Because under-inflated tyres have more rolling resistance, they will also increase fuel consumption. Over-inflation reduces the cushioning power of the tyre, making it more susceptible to impact, penetration and abrasion. Over-inflation also means that there is less contact with the road surface, which has a negative impact on road handling.
Other items such as brakes, windscreen wipers (which can deteriorate in the sun, even if you don’t use them), windscreens, and lights (headlights, brake lights, and reverse lights), need to be checked to ensure they are all still working properly.
Apart from checking the vehicle, drivers should also ensure their attitude is good before setting off, even if it is a short journey. The ten “Golden Rules” of driving should always apply. These are:
• Buckle up
• Respect the rules of the road
• Obey the speed limit
• Check your tyres
• Drive sober
• Protect your children / passengers
• Pay attention
• Stop when you are tired
• Wear a helmet on a motorbike
• Be courteous and considerate
In addition to drivers, commuters who rely on public transport should also reflect on their behaviour in October. This is especially important for pedestrians. According to statistics pedestrians are the most vulnerable road user group on South African roads, with close to 40% of all deaths on our roads involving pedestrians.