How to navigate loadshedding behind the wheel

Loadshedding doesn’t need to be a nightmare from behind the wheel, we have some helpful advice to navigate the dark

It’s December and the annual holidays are in sight. Hooray, some rest and relaxation for everyone. Eskom, however, has other plans and their rolling blackouts known as loadshedding are necessary to keep the electricity-grid stable. Most traffic lights rely on electricity, so loadshedding equals no traffic lights and the potential for crazy traffic. Loadshedding is something we have to deal with, yes, it makes us feel better if we moan about it, but in reality it’s here and we have to navigate around it.

Here are 7 tips on how to navigate loadshedding from behind the wheel of your car:

Navigating an intersection that has no traffic lights

Loadshedding wreaks havoc on traffic, no traffic lights at big intersections and motorists all of a sudden forget how an intersection functions as a four-way stop. It can be intimidating when approaching a huge intersection and you see the traffic lights are out. The anxiety is real, who goes when and where?!? Don’t panic. Take five deep breaths. When you’re a few cars from the front start paying attention to the order everyone is going through the junction, it may not be the K53 approach you were taught when getting your license. When you get to the front go slowly through the intersection in case someone decides to jump the order, this gives you time to avoid them in the intersection. Keep track of the path of each car, a car turning is going to take longer to get through the intersection than someone going straight. Give them time to get across.

Your car is a power source

Charging phone in car | Women On Wheels

Pack your charging cable for every trip you take, your car is a power source for charging mobile devices, use the time in it wisely. Your destination could have no power when you get there, which could result in your phone being the entertainment source, a phone and a flashlight, all of which will drain battery quickly.

Local is lekker

Women changing radio in car | Women On Wheels

Local radio stations often have more information on regional traffic than national stations. Before the hour, tune into a local station for the news and localised traffic reports. Use social media to find accounts monitoring traffic or service in your city.

Information is power. Plan. Plan. Plan.

What should be a quick trip across town can become a pilgrimage during loadshedding. If possible, keep a printed map of the loadshedding zones in your car with the accompanying scheduled blackouts. You could be driving over multiple zones that have loadshedding, resulting in more traffic than usual. Add a minimum of 30 minutes to your travel time for loadshedding. Use an app like GoogleMaps or an equivalent as a proactive tool to see where traffic is heavy, you can either navigate around or at least know how long the traffic may last.

Have plenty of airtime

Cell phone towers are powered by electricity, they have backup batteries, though these only last a finite amount of time and are susceptible to the gremlins of failure owing to loadshedding. This in turn effects cell phone reception in areas, namely reception for applications like WhatsApp. Make sure you have enough airtime to send an SMS or make a call when running late for an appointment during loadshedding, the signal for these functions works on a ‘basic’ frequency and is generally working even if WhatsApp is not.

Light your world

Buy a high-wattage torch or solar-powered lamps for loadshedding, we often don’t realise how well lit our route or area is until we need to get to our car during loadshedding and it’s very dark. A high-wattage torch lights up all the shadows and makes it safer when heading to and from the car during loadshedding. Consider purchasing solar-powered outdoor lights for your home to light the way at night even when there’s no electricity.

Safety in numbers

If you have an electric gate or garage door make sure someone can meet you at home when you arrive and need to open gates/doors manually. Most security companies will offer this service if you pre-arrange it with them. Otherwise organise with neighbours that you help each other out when arriving home, many sets of eyes are better than one.


Image: iStock