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Holiday Driving Safety Rules for Beginners

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The car is checked, your bags are packed, the open road is waiting – road trip excitement is underway! But don’t be too in a hurry and remember that getting there safely is more important than getting there quickly. Sometimes the sheer joy of going on holiday and the eagerness to get to your destination overshadows common sense.

These are seven basic but crucial points that could save your life:

1. Watch the speed limit, not the clock

Speeding is responsible for 20 – 30% of all fatal road crashes. International reports confirm that:

This is because the faster you drive, the less time you have to react to changes on the road and around you, and the ability to manoeuvre yourself out of a dangerous situation is smaller.

In South Africa, speeding and driving under the influence together are the main causes of road accidents, according to the Department of Transport. This costs South Africa’s economy R164 billion, 3,4% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product, and 1,4 % higher than the international benchmark. Watch your speed limit – for your own safety, other road users, and the country.

2. Buckle up all passengers

The purpose of seatbelts are to restrain passengers from ejecting from their car seats, thrown into the air, and colliding with an object. This is what could potentially happen should you have an accident.

In a report that studied rear seat safety belt use, it was found that accident mortality can be reduced for rear passengers by 55–75% if safety belts are used. Yet another study found that unbuckled rear seat passengers placed not only themselves but drivers too at higher risk of fatal injury when involved in a crash.

Yes, seatbelts are highly effective in protecting passengers and significantly reducing the risk of fatal or serious injuries in a crash.

3. Check rear view mirrors diligently

That means as often as is necessary. Driving experts recommend every 5-8 seconds. When it comes to driving on the road, a lot can happen in just 5 seconds. Think about it this way: if you were travelling on the highway at 100km/h, you would have travelled 138m in a short space of time.

Check your surroundings frequently to see that nothing has changed dramatically by glancing in your rear and side view mirrors regularly and for short bursts not longer than 1 – 2 seconds.

Of course, you’ll also want check both those mirrors whenever you’re changing lanes, pulling over, or anything else that requires you to steer off the path you’re travelling on. For the rest of the time your gaze should be firmly fixed ahead of you. Which brings us to the next point.

4. Stop when tired

The National Sleep Foundation reported some years ago that 60% of people surveyed admitted to driving in a drowsy state, and 37% to actually haven fallen asleep at the wheel!

Our reaction times and decision-making ability is so impaired when drowsy that it has similar effects to having alcohol in the system. In fact, staying awake for 18-hours straight can make you act and drive as if you have a blood alcohol level of 0.05, just 0.03 below drunk state.

5. Hands off the phone, eyes on the road

While its actually illegal to use one while driving, cell phones are one of the major causes of distracted driving and road accidents in South Africa. On average, reading a text and responding whilst you drive can distract you for about 9 seconds. That’s a long time considering that an object can suddenly appear in front of your car in a second. The open road is rife with wildlife and many a vehicle’s backside has seen its frontend simply because the driver took his eyes off the road for a few seconds.

Some interesting figures from the International Transport Forum’s (ITF) Road Safety Annual Report:

  • 25% of road accidents in South Africa are as a result of texting and driving.
  • The likelihood of an accident occurring when you text and drive is 23 times higher.

Although 95% of drivers are aware that texting whilst driving is illegal and dangerous, 21% of them will still do it anyway.

6. Keep headlights on at all times

A car’s headlights are not only for you the driver to see ahead of you in the dark at night. It has a very important function even during the day in that it makes you more noticeable to other road users. The more visible every car on the road is, the less the chances of accidents with other vehicles and pedestrians.

Other than at night, the important times that your headlights must absolutely be on are just before sunset, and when there is low visibility such as cloudy, rainy, misty, and foggy days.

7. Practice defensive driving

While there are all types of drivers on the road, some even illegal with fake or no driver’s  licenses at all, even licensed drivers are not as skilled as they should be. Lack of experience, aggressive behaviour, distracted driving, and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs are common problems at any time of the year but likely gets worse over the holiday period.

With so many drivers turning themselves into human road hazards, while you can’t control their actions, you can control your own, and defensive driving is just that – defending yourself against the hazardous actions of others. Be alert, observe your surroundings, and think three steps ahead by anticipating the actions of the drivers around you. Defensive driving is arguably the most powerful tool in your road safety arsenal.

In summary

As you can see, there’s nothing new about these safety rules – passing both a learner’s and a driver’s licence depends on these basics. The key is to follow them fully every single time you’re driving on the road, whether you’re in town or on the open road. Yes, the goal of getting away is to have a well-deserved break, but getting there and back home safely is more important.

It’s always a good idea to have your car checked a few weeks before leaving home. Pop in to a convenient Supa Quick for a free vehicle safety check for peace of mind.

Read next:

10 Holiday Road Trip Essentials
Driving Tips by Phillip Kekana

Disclaimer: This information is for educational or informational purposes only. We do not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability, and accuracy of this information. Views expressed in this article are of the author and not necessarily the views of Supa Quick.


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