South Africa’s roads are among the world’s most dangerous, with 14,071 people killed in motor accidents during the course of 2016 alone…
South Africa’s roads are among the world’s most dangerous, with 14,071 people killed in motor accidents during the course of 2016 alone – a 9% increase on the previous year’s fatality figure. National Transport Month, which is marked during October each year, has been created as a tool to promote awareness of road safety across South Africa, with the aim being to highlight ways in which drivers can make the country’s roads safer for everyone.
So as we mark National Transport Month this October, it’s important to familiarise yourself with key traffic laws and equip yourself with the relevant know-how to ensure you keep you and your family safe this summer.
Here are a few key pointers that could spell the difference between safe and sorry:
Know your slow from your go
While most South African drivers are familiar with the basic rules of the road, many continue to disregard selected laws, something that has resulted in countless unnecessary accidents. Amber lights, for instance, tend to be perceived as a challenge rather than a warning to slow down, particularly in areas rampant with crime. And whilst it’s always important to prioritise personal safety, amber lights should, barring exceptional circumstances, not be treated as an invitation to speed up.
Traffic circles also remain perplexing to many, and tend to be the cause of numerous fender benders. However, the basic guiding principle is extremely simple: always give way to cars approaching from the right. By simply adhering to this rule of thumb, you’ll save yourself plenty of hooting and angry exchanges, and you’ll score bonus points for using your indicator to suggest where you’ll be turning.
Mobile phones have proven cause for concern for traffic officials for many years now, with distracted drivers more often than not identified as the root cause of accidents. And while the negative ramifications of mobile usage while driving have been well documented, far less has been said about the importance of mobile phones, particularly in emergency situations.
So while you should never use your mobile on the move (and new cell phones make this easier by barring notifications while you’re on the road), it’s important to keep it on hand in case of an emergency. Not only is your mobile your lifeline to the outside world should you be involved in an accident, but thanks to new technology, it could also mean the difference between life and death.
Tracking and emergency assist apps, which can now be acquired as part of an insurance plan, enables your insurer to track your vehicle’s movements, sending notifications in the event of any unusual movements or impact on the car. This means that, even if you aren’t capable of placing an emergency call yourself, assistance will always be close at hand.
Check it before you wreck it
They say the best way to avoid a crisis is to prevent it, so before setting off on the open road with your family this summer, it’s important to make sure your vehicle is in working order. Make sure to check all the tyres (including the spare), oil and water levels as well as the windscreen wiper fluid, which will come in particularly handy in the event of summer storms.
It’s also important to ensure your car battery is in good working order so as to prevent unnecessary breakdowns, and to make sure that all your emergency equipment is in good working order. By performing regular checks on your vehicle, you’ll reduce the risk of disaster, and position yourself to stay safer on the roads this season.
Unfortunately, even the best laid plans can unravel from time to time, and tyre blowouts and breakdowns can happen to even the most particular vehicle owners. The key in such instances is to be prepared, to ensure you can rectify the damage quickly enough to prevent putting you or your family in harm’s way.
Changing a tyre is one of the most fundamental skills any driver can possess, and the simple truth is that it’s far easier than you might think. Once you’ve applied the handbrake and ensured your car is safely in park (if automatic) or in first gear (if manual), loosen the wheel nuts with the wheel wrench, using your foot to loosen them in the event of tightness. Then, take the car jack and place it flat on the ground, attaching it to the reinforced sill beneath the car before raising it slowly. Once you’ve elevated the car, release the nuts and the wheel and replace it with your spare, ensuring the nuts are reattached securely. Simple as that.
Jump starting your vehicle is equally simply, although it does require the presence of another car. Once you’ve found another working vehicle, park it so its engine is facing your bonnet, making sure the two cars aren’t touching. Then, attach a set of jumper cables to the positive (red) and negative (black) leads of the working car battery, making sure to attach the same cables to the respective leads of your own. In order to avoid sparks, you’ll need to find a piece of bare metal on which to ground the negative lead.
Once the cables are attached, start the working car and run the engine for about two minutes, before starting your own car and running the engine for ten to fifteen minutes. Switch off the host car before disconnecting the leads, and you should be ready to go.
Remember, road safety begins with you, so make sure to brush up on your road IQ this Transport Month and make it your priority to make the country’s highways and byways safer for everyone.