festive season

THE FESTIVE SEASON & ROAD SAFETY THESE HOLIDAYS.

THE FESTIVE SEASON & ROAD SAFETY THESE HOLIDAYS.

The holidays are nearly upon us – let’s talk about festive season road safety!

Nicknamed the “silly season”, the annual summer holidays are a time of jolly festivity. It is also a time when people seem to be more careless in many regards, but also on our roads.

 Last month we discussed how to ensure your child’s car seat was ready for the holiday season. This month we are addressing general road safety.

Whether you are going away for the holidays or taking a “staycation” here are some tips for staying safe on the road.

VEHICLE & TYRE SERVICE

Before the holiday season kicks off, this is a fantastic time to get your car serviced and tyres replaced.

Vehicle maintenance is an essential part of road safety. A vehicle that is not functioning at its peak performance is a hazard to you and others on the road. Ask your mechanic to do a full service. Check engine health, brakes, wheel alignment, airbags, lights, and other important checks included in a service.

It is also important to check whether your tyres are in need of replacement, especially if you are embarking on a long trip. Don’t forget to make sure that your spare tyre is also checked and ready in case you sustain a puncture.

It is also wise to invest in a breakdown kit, should you have any troubles on your journey. A breakdown kit should include:

  • Spare tyre & car jack and spanner
  • Reflective vest
  • Emergency triangle
  • Jumper Cables
  • Spare fuses

Book a service with our road safety partner, Supa Quick. Supa Quick also serves as a drop-off point for car seat donations. You can help us to ensure that a child in need of a car seat is travelling safely these holidays.

PLANNING YOUR JOURNEY

When planning out your journey, it is a good idea to consider the length of your journey and how familiar you are with the roads you are travelling on.

If you are planning on travelling across the country, consider stopping overnight to break up the journey. Especially if you are solely responsible for driving, it is best not to drive for more than 6-7 hours in a single day. For example, those driving from Gauteng to the coast, Gariep Dam and surrounding towns make for a nice halfway overnight stop. It has many options to cater to your needs, whether you are travelling alone, with children or pets. Remember – you are on holiday, so try not to rush the trip in a single day, if it is safer to do it over two days. If there is more than one available driver, take turns driving so that each driver is able to rest. Fatigue is almost as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs!

Try to take note of routes that offer frequent stops, such as roadside petrol stations. This will give you an opportunity to have a coffee, stretch your legs and let your kids run around for a bit.

Always know how far away the next available stop is so that you do not get caught unaware – whether it is to rest or fill up on fuel. You should take a rest stop every 2 hours or 200km.

UNFAMILIAR TERRITORY & ADVERSE DRIVING CONDITIONS

Holiday travelling often takes one away from all that we are familiar with. When travelling on unfamiliar roads, drive with extra caution.

Even when you are on holiday, roadworks and potholes don’t take time off. Some areas of the country have terrible roads and there are many potholes. When driving along these stretches of road, drive slowly to avoid damaging your vehicle or tyres.

Roadworks are also almost always something you will encounter while travelling on the road. Remember they are essential to the upkeep of the roads, so exercise patience when encountering them. Be aware of upcoming “Stop & Go’s”, and pay attention to signs and signals from road workers. Never try and skip the queue or try and slip through a “Stop & Go”. If it is not your turn to do so this can very likely end in a collision.

Keeping an eye on loadshedding schedules and weather reports along your route can also alert you to upcoming adverse driving conditions so that you can safely navigate them. As we have discussed before, for every adverse driving condition – whether that be driving in the dark or during loadshedding, harsh weather or damaged roads – drive 10% slower for each adverse condition. This will give you extra time to react to anything dangerous and unpredictable that may cross your path.

TRAVELLING SAFELY ALONGSIDE TRUCKS

Think of trucks on the road as “Santa’s helpers”. They need to transport their goods to stores so that you are able to go shopping for gifts, food and other merry things this season.

Without the transport industry, the holidays would not be nearly as festive and jolly. Throughout the holiday season, trucks will be trekking back and forth across the country. It is important to know how to safely share the road with them.

As we stated in a previous article, 70% of truck-related car fatalities are initiated by car drivers. 35% of these fatalities occur in trucks’ blind spots. Be mindful of trucks’ blindspots when overtaking them.

ROADBLOCKS & DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE

As a rule of thumb when driving near or far during the holiday season, expect there to be roadblocks.

It goes without saying that you should ALWAYS have your driver’s licence on you when operating a vehicle. If there was ever a time you would get caught driving without one, it is during the festive season. The South African Police Service and Metro Police are on high alert for unsafe behaviour. Ensure your licence is valid and up to date, or else you might find yourself with a hefty fine for Christmas. Also, ensure that your vehicle is roadworthy and in a safe condition for driving.

By the same token, roadblocks are ready and waiting to breathalyse anyone who may have gotten a bit too much into the festive spirit. In today’s times, with easy access to Uber and other similar taxi services, there is no reason to drink and drive.

If you are going to be drinking, plan ahead and leave your car behind or have a designated driver. When you drink before getting behind the wheel, you are not only putting yourself at risk but everyone else on the road. This is an avoidable risk. Also, if you make the right choice, consider that other people might not be as responsible. Be on the lookout for other drivers who may be driving unsafely or erratically and report them.

PEDESTRIANS

A large part of the population will be travelling to the coast to enjoy summer on the beach. Towns and cities by the ocean see a huge increase in the number of pedestrians. Some towns will even close off roads, making them pedestrian-only. With people walking between the beach, restaurants and bars, it is important to be extra careful when navigating these crowded areas. This is even more true at night. Drive slowly and check your blind spots.

If you are a pedestrian during these busy times, look right and left before crossing the road. Avoid walking alone if you are inebriated.

Also, be on the lookout for pickpocketing and muggings in some areas. Keep your valuables hidden to avoid becoming a target.

MATRIC RAGE

At the beginning of December, matrics from all over the country will be flocking to the coast to celebrate the end of exams and the beginning of adulthood. Durban and Plettenberg Bay are especially popular destinations. Many of these youngsters will be elated by their newfound freedom to drive and drink legally. Unfortunately sometimes at the same time.

Most of us remember our own Matric Rage or similar post-high school “jol”. It can be a time when a sense of responsibility is not at the top of our priority list. If you see any teens getting themselves into trouble and acting irresponsibly, step in to help or report it to someone who is equipped to assist.

Red Frogs is a fantastic organisation of volunteers who help out at Matric Rage festivals around South Africa. They are specifically there to help anyone who might have partied too hard. They also give out free pancakes!

To our matrics of 2023: have fun, stay safe, drink water, take Ubers, and enjoy your first taste of adulthood this summer. Also, be respectful of the locals in the town you are visiting.

DONATE BLOOD

Before you leave for the holiday, consider donating blood if you are able – it is the season of giving, after all. Car crashes are an inevitable part of the holiday season, but your blood could save someone’s life. A car crash victim can require up to 100 units of blood and supplies run low over the holidays.

Take a look at the SANBS website to find out where to donate.

From all of us at Wheel Well, have a magnificently festive holiday season with family and friends. Stay safe on the roads and always, drive lovingly. See you next year!

THE FESTIVE SEASON & ROAD SAFETY THESE HOLIDAYS. Read More »

IS YOUR CAR SEAT READY FOR THE HOLIDAYS?

IS YOUR CAR SEAT READY FOR THE HOLIDAYS?

The last leg of the year is upon us and the holiday season is right around the corner. Before the holidays start, now is a good time to check that your car seats are the correct size for your children and safe for use.

Although the holidays are filled with cheer and merriment, a time with family and friends, it is also a time when our roads are the most deadly. As much as it is a time for rest and relaxation, one should never relax when it comes to road safety. Especially when it comes to the safety of our children.

Here is a list of ten things to ensure your car seat is ready for the festive season. 

THE RIGHT SEAT

Children have a tendency to get bigger at lightning speed. Anyone with young children knows the pain of having to buy new clothes almost seasonally as their young ones outgrow everything. The same is true of their car seats.

It is very important that your child’s car seats are the correct size and type for their developmental stage. Infants, toddlers and young children all have different requirements for their developmental stages and it is vital that their car seat caters to these needs. An incorrect car seat for their age, size and weight could result in serious injury or death in the event of a crash.

This is a great time to check whether your car seat is still suitable for your child’s developmental stage. We have these useful infographics and this article to help you to determine whether it’s suitable. If you are still unsure, get in contact with Wheel Well and we will be happy to help you. 

THE RIGHT PLACE

The safest place for your child to be in a vehicle is in the backseat. This is true up until at least age 13 years. Should they be flung from their harness in a collision while seated in the back, the seat in front of them will better prevent them from going through the windshield. In the front seat, the impact of the airbag deploying could cause them serious injury and even death if they are in a car seat. The backseat is again safer for this reason. 

THE RIGHT DIRECTION

The topic of rear-facing car seats is something we have covered several times before. Ultimately, you want to keep your child in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible – usually up until 15 months. Due to an infant or toddler having a more fragile body and bone structure, they need more support. In a forward-facing seat a collision may cause their head to be flung forward with enormous force. This can result in death on account of their still-developing neck and head. By rear-facing their car seat, the backrest provides better support against the momentum of a car crash. 

THE INSTALLATION INCH TEST

When installing a car seat, correct installation is vital. Ensure that you have followed the car seat manual to the letter to make sure it is safe and secure. Once you have the car seat installed, give it a firm shake. Try to move it from side to side, and then backwards and forwards. If your car seat is safely and correctly installed, it should not move more than an inch (2.5cm) in any direction. Regularly check this to ensure that it remains true. 

THE PINCH TEST

Once your car seat is secure, the next thing to check is whether the harnesses are snug. Firstly check that the harness straps are correctly slotted through the car seat in compliance with the manual.

Once your child is securely buckled up in their seat, make sure the straps are not too tight. This can cause a lot of discomfort and even injury. It is even more important to ensure that the straps are not too loose. Loose straps could render the car seat ineffective if your child is able to slip out. Try and pinch the straps – if you’re able to pinch any excess webbing then they are too loose and should be tightened.

When positioning the harness on a rear-facing car seat, the harness should be slightly below the shoulder. On a forward-facing car seat, check that the harness is slightly above the shoulder. 

TWISTED HARNESS CHECK

When strapping your little one in, run your fingers along the harness straps to ensure that they are not twisted. Not only is this uncomfortable for your child, but it can also interfere with ensuring that the straps are properly tightened. A twisted harness can also cause extra bruising and injury in a collision. 

PASSENGER SEAT & AIRBAG

If you have no other alternative than to place your child’s car seat on the front passenger seat, remember to deactivate the airbag. The force at which an airbag deploys, while potentially saving the life of an adult, can be fatal to a child. This is especially true of a rear-facing car seat which could propel a young child face-first into the seat with incredible impact on their heads, neck and spine. We never recommend rear-facing a car seat in the passenger seat for this reason. 

SLEEPING SUPPORT

If your child is likely to fall asleep or you notice them starting to nod off, put the car seat into the reclined position. Place a small neck cushion or else a rolled up cloth or towel under their chin. This will help them to breathe freely. On the inverse, do not put a cushion or similar behind their heads as this will tilt their heads too far forward, causing discomfort and potentially hindering their breathing. 

STOPPING REGULARLY

Long car journeys can be taxing even on an adult, let alone a child. Especially with the excitement of a fun holiday at the end of a trip, children are often energetic and can grow quickly tired of the confines of a car. When they sleep in a car seat, they also do not get the same good quality sleep as they would in a bed. This can result in slightly lower blood oxygen levels and a child that may be a bit more grumpy than usual. When travelling with children, plan to stop every two hours or 200km in order for them to stretch their legs and expel some energy.

Thankfully there are many petrol stations along the major highways that have jungle gyms and kiddie play areas. If you are travelling off the beaten track and don’t have access to these facilities, take a little walk with the children away from the roads to get blood and oxygen flowing again. This will make for a more comfortable trip for everyone.

 

TOYS, SNACKS & ENTERTAINMENT

For many children, the excitement of getting in the car and setting off on holiday can wear off quickly. It’s best to be prepared for potentially having some bored and restless little passengers. Unless you are fortunate to have a quiet “car-sleeper”, have some toys and snacks on hand. Avoid snacks that might have a high sugar content because the last thing you want is a hyperactive child going wild in the back seat.

If they are playing with toys, let them play with one toy at a time. You don’t want them to get bored of everything all at once, but more importantly it is good to pack away any unnecessary toys that could be flung around in a crash.

A tablet with some movies or audiobooks can keep them entertained for long periods of time. Alternatively, playing some interactive car games with them (such as the classic “I Spy”) will also help stave off the all too familiar “Are we there yet?”. 

Next month we will be looking at some general tips for anyone travelling on the road over the festive season. Otherwise, we wish you and your family safe travels and a fantastic festive season.

Once again, should you have any further questions or need any help getting your car seat ready for the holidays, Wheel Well is always happy to provide advice. Please get in contact here.

IS YOUR CAR SEAT READY FOR THE HOLIDAYS? Read More »