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7 Driving Safety Tips For A Road Trip

Tips - 11 December 2019

Your car is checked, your bags are packed, and the road is waiting – but take a moment to remind yourself that getting there quickly is less important than getting there safely.

Safety on the road is a no-brainer, yet we seem to forget the basics. This list may seem obvious and talked about all too often, but if we understand the level of danger we put ourselves and our passengers through, there’s a better chance that we’ll adhere to the rules rather than regret overlooking them.

Driving safety rules for a holiday road trip

1. Stop When Tired

In a report by the National Sleep Foundation, 60% of adults admitted to driving drowsy, and 37% admitted to having fallen asleep at the wheel. This shocking statistic should alert us to the fact that driving while drowsy is a common occurrence, extremely dangerous, and to be avoided at all times. Both delayed reaction times and decision-making ability is impaired to the degree similar to the effects of drinking alcohol. In fact, a straight 18-hour wakefulness period makes you drive as if you have a blood alcohol level of 0.05, just 0.03 below drunk state.

2. Buckle Up All Passengers

Seatbelts are designed to restrain vehicle occupants from ejecting from their seat into the air and colliding with an object on the path in the event of the car being involved in an accident in the first place.

In a matched cohort study, it was concluded that accident mortality can be reduced for rear passengers by 55–75% if safety belts are used. In another study, it was 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 Mirrors Diligently

That means often. Driving experts recommend every 5-8 seconds, because when it comes to driving on the road, a lot can happen in just 5 seconds, for example, if you were travelling on the highway at 100km/h, you would have travelled 138m in that short period of time.

Glance in your rear and side view mirrors regularly and for short bursts not longer than 1 – 2 seconds, just to check your surroundings and that nothing has changed dramatically. 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.

4. Watch the Speed Limit, Not the Clock

We’ve heard it all before, speed kills, but if we know this why do we continue speeding? Speeding and driving under the influence together are the main causes of road accidents in South Africa, which in turn is costing South Africa’s economy R164 billion, this means 3,4 % of the country’s Gross Domestic Product, which was 1,4 % higher than the international benchmark, according to the Department of Transport.

In a country so desperate to keep its head above water, if speed really kills, (and it does) should we as drivers not contribute to keep injuries and death off the road by simply staying within the speed limit?

5. Keep Headlights On

Switching your headlights on even during the day can help save your life by making you more visible. Studies have shown that driving with vehicle lights on improves your noticeability and detectability in the central and peripheral fields of view of other road users. Being more visible to other road users lowers the risk of accidents.

Research also shows that not only do headlights reduce the number of accidents, it also resulted in fewer pedestrian and motorcycle accidents involving vehicles coming from the other direction.

6. Hands Off That Phone

Cell phone use is one of the major causes of distracted driving and road accidents in South Africa. Perhaps it’s worth reminding that it is actually illegal to use a cell phone while driving, whether talking, texting, or Shazam-ming. On average, reading a text and responding whilst you drive can distract you for about 9 seconds. 

According to 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. It has also been found that the likelihood of an accident occurring when you text and drive is 23 times higher. The report also states that although 95% of drivers are aware that texting whilst driving is illegal and dangerous, 21% of them will still do it anyway. Strange, but true.  

7. Practice Defensive Driving

There are all types of drivers on the road, some even illegal, with fake or no driver’s  licenses at all. Regardless, even licensed drivers are not very skilled, and the problems are varied including lack of experience, aggressive behaviour, distracted driving, and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

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.

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