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!