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Important Safety Rules When Driving in Heavy Traffic

  • Tips/Guides-Tips/Guides

Now that the Covid-19 is more or less behind us, road traffic is back to its pre-pandemic numbers. Furthermore, with more and more vehicles being sold and occupying the country’s roads, traffic congestion is worsening in South Africa.

Trying to plan your drive so that you avoid peak hours is a good idea, but you can’t anticipate the unexpected, such as an accident or roadworks on your route. Finding yourself in a heavy traffic situation requires you to really kick in those road safety rules.

Driving safety

A safe driver always adjusts their driving according to the environment at the time, whether it’s traffic conditions, road conditions, or weather. Nevertheless, we need to obey all the traffic rules no matter what the situation – they are there for our own safety and the safety of other road users, after all.

Anyone who has passed their vehicle learner’s and driver’s licence has learnt the rules of the road. However, there are certain rules that are particularly important when driving in heavy traffic.

Approaching heavy traffic

To begin with, when approaching heavy traffic in the distance, slow down (gradually rather than suddenly) while keeping with the flow of the traffic.

Keep your distance

Maintain the appropriate distance using the three-second guideline between you and the car in front. Slow down as the vehicle in front slows down to maintain the distance, and avoid braking abruptly. Increase the distance as your speed increases.

Decrease speed

Remember that the speed limit may not be a safe speed in heavy traffic. Reduce your speed to the point where you're able to control the vehicle and avoid colliding with any object, person or vehicle. Give yourself ample response time by slowing down and allowing the time and space to respond swiftly to an emergency situation.

Be aware

Build a mental picture of the driving conditions you’re dealing with and watch out for hazards and erratic drivers. Keep scanning traffic and road conditions. Use your rear view mirrors and check your blind spots whenever necessary (when overtaking, changing lanes, or merging).

Watch out for motorcyclists and cyclists

Continuing from the previous point, be aware of two-wheelers as they are smaller and can easily become invisible in your blind spot. In heavy traffic, motorcyclists may also take the opportunity to get ahead of motorists and will manoeuvre around between lanes. 

Stay focused and alert

Avoid distractions and keep your concentration on the task at hand. The dangers of cellphone use while driving has been much spoken and written about.

Also read: Common causes of road accidents in young drivers


Be alert, observe your surroundings, and think three steps ahead by anticipating the actions of the drivers around you. Driving defensively means protecting yourself against the hazardous actions of others.

Keep calm

While not a traffic safety rule, per se, underpinning your driving behaviour with composure is almost an unwritten rule.  Anxiety can negatively impact the way you drive. Whenever you start feeling anxious or stressed, remind yourself that you cannot change the heavy traffic situation but you can control how you handle it – in a responsible and composed manner.


By adopting these key safety rules every time you find yourself in heavy traffic helps make the road safer for everyone. On a personal level, you'll find your nerves to be less brittle, and arrive at your destination a happier person than you otherwise would’ve been.

Read next:

So you think you’re a skillful driver?

Are your driving habits making you a risk on the road?

How traffic congestion affects the environment

How Traffic Congestion Affects the Environment (and Humans)

Disclaimer: This information is for educational, or entertainment purposes only. It must not be construed as advice, legal, financial, or otherwise. We do not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability, and accuracy of this information.


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