South African roads are unsafe spaces. The festive season death toll in 2018/19 rose by 5% to more than 1600 from an already appalling level.
Gumtree Auto’s Jeff Osborne says while there’s little the average citizen can do about South Africa’s haphazard national safety standards, other than consistently reporting bad driving, there’s plenty they can do to keep themselves safer: “Every driver should learn to drive smarter and to drive defensively which means consistently applying basic procedures and always being alert and aware.”
Osborne says there’s a short list of safety non-negotiables for driving this winter.
- Check your vehicle before you travel and never compromise on safety issues - tyres, brakes, lights, wipers, mirrors.
- Don’t drink and drive - no exceptions.
- Stay at a safe speed, even when you’re late.
- Observe a three-vehicle length following distance – always leave yourself space to react to an accident in front of you.
- Be patient and only overtake when it’s completely safe to do so – don’t be pressured by a long queue of vehicles behind you.
- If you’re tired while driving, swap drivers or pull over for a rest - plan your long journeys properly to ensure adequate breaks.
- Every passenger should buckle up, every time - too many backseat passengers in particular are travelling without seat belts and the consequences in an accident can be appalling.
- Concentrate on the road and remain alert - don’t be distracted by cellphones or music systems.
- Anticipate problems - do not assume that other drivers (or pedestrians) will behave rationally or legally.
- Slow right down when visibility is poor from rain, fog, poor road lighting or driving into the sun. In very heavy rain, pull over in a safe place and wait for conditions to improve.