The holidays are approaching, and the country's roads are expected to get busier. Motorists need to be extra vigilant and cautious when driving during the holidays because the increase in traffic also, unfortunately, increases the potential risks of crashes.
We've compiled some guidelines to help you and your family stay safe as well as ensure the safety of other travel companions and other road users:
Obey the rules of the road
The most important rule to follow. If everyone obeys the laws, it will significantly reduce the number of motor vehicle crashes on our roads.
- Stick to the speed limit. We cannot stress this enough.
- Be vigilant of potential obstructions on the road, especially at night.
- Drive to the conditions of the road, and not necessarily the marked speed limit. Reduce your speed accordingly.
- Keep a safe following distance from the vehicle ahead of you. Even though this is a common rule, not everyone follows it. Adhering to this can help prevent crashes in emergencies; 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.
- Keep your vehicle as close to the left-hand side of the road as possible.
- Never leave your 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. If your motor vehicle is found to be unroadworthy, the police may impound it.
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 – your car 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 require a police clearance.
- Electrical system – The electrical system includes head and dip lights, parking and number plate lights, indicators, stop and tail lights, hooter, windscreen wipers, battery, generator, alternator and wiring. Also, ensure you have no missing battery clamps as well as check that you have no loose or exposed wiring. A faulty electrical system is one of the main reasons cars are deemed unroadworthy.
- The headlights 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. The law states that all lamps fitted to a motor vehicle must be undamaged, adequately secured and capable of being lighted at all times.
- Door and handles – all the doors on your 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 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 identifiable as safety glass. Also, check that all windows can open and close with ease and window winders are properly 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 – check whether the seats are firmly secured (and that any 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 as intended.
- 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. You also need to attend to any body rust.
- 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 tested every 24 months. This regulation still has to be implemented and is aimed at increasing road safety and decreasing road fatalities.
Ensure the driver is fit to drive
- Driving any vehicle should be seen as a great responsibility. The safety of other people depends on your fitness to drive.
- If at any time you feel that you are not medically fit and able to drive competently, and safely, then do not drive. There are many 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, dementia, blackouts, cardiovascular conditions (high or low blood pressure), diabetes, epilepsy, eyesight conditions, sleep disorders (like sleep apnea), heart disease, Parkinson's disease, and other neurological disorders, to name a few.
- Driver fatigue is also a common cause of road accidents. If you feel tired during a journey, stop to take a break or allow another passenger who is licensed, to drive.
- By law, you are not allowed to drive a vehicle on a public road unless you have your licence with you. Always keep it on hand.
- 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.
Follow these road safety suggestions at all times, every day. The holiday season is a time for enjoyment and relaxation. We want to ensure that all road users observe road safety rules and arrive safely at their destinations.
Even if you cannot control the actions of other road users, you can still follow the road rules and reduce the risks to yourself and your passengers.