The holidays are approaching and the country’s roads are expected to be busier at this time. This means motorists need to be extra vigilant and cautious when driving. The increase in traffic also unfortunately increases the potential risks of crashes.
To stay on the right side of the law, it is advisable to consider the following factors. Following these guidelines will ensure your and your family’s safety as well as the safety other travel companions and other road users:
Obey the rules of the road
This is certainly the most important initial step to follow. If this is adhered to, it will greatly reduce the number of motor vehicle crashes on our roads.
- Remain within the speed limit: This cannot be stressed enough. Always remain aware of potential obstructions on the road, especially at night, and reduce your speed accordingly. Drive to the conditions of the road, and not necessarily the marked speed limit.
- Keeping a safe following distance from the motor vehicle ahead is a common concept, but not everyone follows it. This sound advice can help prevent crashes in emergency situations, for example, emergency braking or avoiding obstructions. Failing to keep a safe following distance from the motor vehicle ahead of you can cause a high risk of debris and road stones shooting up from that motor vehicle into your windscreen. So obeying the rules of the road is not only beneficial to everyone’s lives but may also save you further financial expenses.
- Ensure you keep your vehicle as close to the left hand side of the road as possible.
- Never leave your motor vehicle unattended while the engine is running.
- If you arrive at a flashing traffic light, it is considered a four-way stop. You must stop first and only go when it is safe to do so.
- Give right of way to an emergency vehicle sounding a siren on the road.
Ensure your vehicle is fit and in a roadworthy condition
Driving a roadworthy vehicle is a legal requirement in South Africa. A roadworthy certificate proves that your motor vehicle is in full working condition for daily use on the road. You can get this at the AA affiliated Dekra Centres, which are conveniently located across South Africa. If your motor vehicle is found to be unroadworthy it may be impounded by the police. Additionally, your insurance company will not pay out a claim if your motor vehicle is found to be unroadworthy. If you use your motor vehicle as a means of public transport, it’s a legal requirement to have your motor vehicle tested for roadworthiness annually. Busses need to have their roadworthiness checked every six months.
Here are a few guidelines to follow to check if your vehicle is roadworthy:
- Vehicle identification – the vehicle is identified by the engine and chassis numbers. Remember that if any of these numbers differ from the vehicle identification on the vehicle registration certificate, the vehicle will have to be sent for a police clearance.
- Electrical system – the electrical system is the main reason why many vehicles fail their roadworthy test and includes head and dip lights, parking and number plate lights, indicators, stop and tail lights, hooter, windscreen wipers, battery, generator, alternator and wiring. Here you will need to ensure you have no missing battery clamps as well as check that you have no loose or exposed wiring.
- Head lights must be in focus in the right direction. Cracked lenses can also be unsafe if the gap allows moisture to collect in the lamp reflector and can cause rust and other damage in this area. With regard to lights, the law states that all lamps fitted to a motor vehicle must be undamaged, properly secured and capable of being lighted at all times.
- Door and handles – all doors on your motor vehicle should be able to open and close easily from the inside and the outside, and they should be firmly attached at the hinges. Inner door panels should also be in a good condition and not have any sharp edges that could cause injury.
- Window and window winders – ensure the glass used for your windows is safety glass and clearly identifiable as safety glass. Also, check that all windows can open and close easily and that all window winders are fitted on your vehicle.
- Safety belts – seat belts must fasten and release with ease. Make sure the belt is not torn, frayed or damaged in any way. Ensure your belt has the SABS approval mark.
- Seats – assess whether the seats in your vehicle are firmly secured and that the bolts or screws used for this purpose are also secured. Padding material and springs must not be exposed.
- Fuel tank and cap – ensure you have a fuel cap and that it works effectively.
- The chassis and undercarriage rust – this is a high priority safety item as any weakness in the structure of the chassis a danger to the whole vehicle. If there is any rust in this area, it is not roadworthy. Body rust must also be attended to.
- Tyres – inspect your tyres to see if the tread is at least 1mm deep on the whole tyre. Even your spare tyre must conform to this requirement.
- Brakes – check the brakes of your vehicle with extreme diligence.
Currently there is a regulation which will require vehicles older than ten years to be periodically tested every 24 months. This regulation, which still has to be implemented, is aimed at increasing road safety and decreasing road fatalities.
Ensure the driver is fit to drive
Driving a motor vehicle should be seen as a responsibility. The safety of other people depends on your fitness to drive.
- If you feel at any time you are not medically fit and able to drive competently, and safely, then do not drive. There are wide ranges of medical conditions or combinations of medical conditions that can affect your fitness to drive. Some of the most common include alcohol or drug dependency, Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia, blackouts, cardiovascular conditions including high or low blood pressure, diabetes, epilepsy, eyesight conditions, sleep disorders like sleep apnea, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurological disorders and stroke, to name a few.
- Driver fatigue is also a common cause of road accidents. Should you feel tired during a journey, stop to take a break or allow another passenger who is licensed, to drive.
- No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a public road unless he or she keeps their driver’s license or any other prescribed authorization like the temporary license with him or her in the vehicle.
- It is the driver’s responsibility to ensure all passengers, including himself or herself, wear seatbelts and strap themselves in. It is a criminal offence to allow a child younger than 14 years to travel unrestrained in a vehicle equipped with seatbelts or a car safety seat. It is a legal requirement that infants below the age of three years must be restrained in an appropriate child restraint.
- Remain alert at all times and avoid distractions such as being on your mobile phone.
- Drinking and driving is a total NO-NO.
These road safety suggestions should be complied with at all times, every day. The holiday season is a time for enjoyment and relaxation; this can be achieved when all travellers observe road safety rules and arrive safely at their destinations. Although you cannot control the actions of other road users, you can ensure that you and your passengers follow the rules of the road and, in so doing, reduce the risks to yourself and others.