Road & Roadside Safety Tips That Could Save Your Life

Pretreat. Protect. Prolong

Bad driving is all too common in South Africa – with cars strolling through red lights at speeds ranging from 5km/h to 200km/h, or taxis casually stopping in the middle of the road to pick up extra passengers. These urban driving conditions combined with an unsafe open road environment make conscious driving and roadside safety a necessity.

Knowing how to navigate our roads and roadsides safely is a necessary skill for all South African drivers. In the case of a breakdown, it’s safer to stay inside your locked car and call professional roadside assistance. If it’s not an engine issue and you’re on the open road, try to slowly drive to the nearest station, even if it costs you your wheel. Instead of concentrating on breakdown and roadside readiness, put your time and money into preventing these incidents entirely by keeping your vehicle in excellent condition and puncture proofing your tyres

Table of Contents

Drive defensively

The best way to stay safe is to practice defensive driving. You can do this by vigilantly keeping your eyes on the road, hands on the steering wheel, and driving lights on for visibility. Always assume that the whatever could go wrong, will, and keep yourself in a prepared state of readiness. Most danger comes from other drivers, so simply adhering to the rules of the road and driving safely isn’t enough, you need to be prepared for unexpected events.

Be aware of your peripherals and the speed limit at all times. Using a good GPS can be useful – many will tell you what the speed limits are and where the traffic cameras can be found along your route.

Keep a 3-second following distance on the open road. Give even more space at night or in undesirable weather conditions, and only overtake other vehicles when you’re absolutely certain it’s safe to do so.

Use puncture-proof tyres

It’s smart to prepare for a roadside breakdown, but it’s smarter to prevent one entirely.

Most breakdowns will be due to something entirely preventable, like bad vehicle maintenance or a flat tyre. Getting out of your vehicle to change a tyre isn’t the safest decision in South Africa, so rather avoid the flat tyre(s) entirely by puncture proofing them.

Modern nano polymer technology can permanently repair punctures without harming tyre balancing or corroding steel belts. By evenly coating the inside of your tyre, most punctures will be sealed immediately, keeping you safely on the road and away from danger.

As a bonus, you’ll also be able to enjoy the full legal thread life of your tyres, so you’ll spend less money replacing them.

Here’s a video of the nano polymer coating process.

Avoid driver’s fatigue

The importance of being genuinely alert on and off the road cannot be understated. Driver’s fatigue is a very real and highly underestimated issue on the road. Heavy eyes threaten lives, so taking measures to keep yourself awake and alert is necessary for long trips.

Here are 10 ways to prevent driver’s fatigue:

  1. Take a break every 2-3 hours.
  2. Only travel when you’re well rested and sober. Don’t be afraid to spend the night at accommodation along your route.
  3. Avoid distractions like cell phones. Pull over if you need to respond.
  4. If you have a passenger, chat to them to keep your mind active.
  5. Have a cup of coffee if you need it.
  6. Don’t eat sugary food.
  7. Drive during sunlight hours.
  8. Avoid medication that can make you drowsy.
  9. Maintain good posture.

If you have a passenger who can also drive, alternate with them.

Make sure your vehicle is roadworthy

Like I mentioned earlier, preventing a breakdown is better than being ready for one. Not that you shouldn’t be prepared.

Here are 11 roadworthiness considerations:

  1. Vehicle doors can easily open and close from both inside and outside while being firmly attached.
  2. No windscreen cracks.
  3. Vehicle’s must have at least one functioning windscreen wiper.
  4. All lights and indicators must be securely fitted and functioning.
  5. Tyre treads are at least 1.6mm deep.
  6. Tyres and wheels are appropriate for the vehicle’s specifications.
  7. Brakes are in good condition.
  8. No visible smoke emissions from exhaust.
  9. Make sure your hooter, speedometer, and odometer are working.
  10. Seating is secure and seatbelts are functional.
  11. Make sure there aren’t any strange sounds coming from your engine.
Plan for a safe drive

Before embarking on a journey, plan it first!

Knowing not just where you’re going, but how you’re getting there, is seriously important. Prior to hitting the road, just run through the route you’ll be taking on Google or Apple maps. Make sure that you’re only travelling through safe, brightly lit areas.

Keep your GPS on and send a family member or friend your live location. It’s better to be cautious than sorry, so use this modern messenger app service to keep yourself safe.

Remember to keep your doors locked in busy areas and unlocked on the open road, and never give a lift to strangers.

Wear your seatbelt

The seatbelt has a pretty interesting history.

The modern 3-point seatbelt was invented by Swedish engineer Nils Bohlin when he was hired by Volvo in 1958. His design was the first to secure both the upper and lower body.

To Volvo’s credit, they decided that Bohlin’s invention was too significant to be used for profit and opened the patent to all car manufacturers.

Wearing your seatbelt is the simplest but most effective way to materially improve your safety on the road. A 2013 study conducted in Cape Town found the rate of seatbelt use to be 45.1% – a concerningly low statistic.

Be smart and wear your seatbelt, even if your vehicle is idle. If you have children, getting them into the habit of wearing their seatbelt will only work to their long-term benefit.

What to do when your car breaks down

No amount of preventative effort is enough to 100% guarantee that your car won’t break down. Preparing for the worst is wise, so what should you do when you find yourself with a flat tyre or smoking engine on the side of the road?

Stay calm. You’ll need to assess the immediate situation, which will be difficult if you’re in a panicked state. Safely pull off the road as far as you can, if you’re able to. Then turn on your hazard lights to make yourself visible to passing motorists.

Getting out of your vehicle is a dangerous move, especially at night, so locking your doors and rolling up your windows before calling roadside assistance is the safest idea. Remember to always charge your phone and have airtime before travelling. While there are kind people who’d stop to help you, statistically it’s a better choice to wait for a police officer or professional roadside service. South Africa is notorious for roadside confrontations – you can’t be too vigilant.

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