October is national Transport month and no better time to refocus attention on lawless driving.
With lockdown restrictions now more relaxed, the number of cars on the road has increased exponentially. While you might not be able to control how other people behave, you can control your role on the roads with proactive driving.
“Proactive driving means constantly refreshing your driving skills through professional training,” says Dewald Ranft, Chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI). “People think that because they’ve been driving for many years, they know all they need to know about road safety and vehicle control. They are in fact mistaken; experienced drivers are often the biggest menace because they’ve become relaxed when they’re driving. All of us can help make the road environment safer by updating our defensive driving skills.”
The various advanced driving courses available in South Africa aim to assist motorists in becoming more competent, confident and safer drivers. “They help reduce key risk behaviours and teach people how to avoid or handle emergency situations,” explains Ranft.
“But in addition to creating a safe environment inside and outside the vehicle, advanced driving skills also benefit the vehicle itself as there is less wear and tear on brakes, clutch and gears. Fuel consumption is lower and in some cases insurance premiums might be lower too.”
An important skill is the ability to monitor emotions and to deal with incidents effectively, recognising your contribution to the situation. Road rage incidents can be avoided if the driver stays in control and is less likely to be caught off guard. Anticipating what another driver might do and moving out of the way helps reduce the risk. “Be aware of all the hazards and risks and respond appropriately and quickly when other drivers behave irresponsibly,” he says. “Always maintain a safe following distance and be aware of all vehicles behind you, in front of you and left or right of you.”
Aggressive drivers are a danger, but so are inattentive drivers who are busy on their phones or other distractions in the vehicle.
“When you’re driving, you have to think about a lot of things: your speed, the traffic laws, the direction you’re going in, road conditions, pedestrians, other cars around you. It’s a long list, and if you’re not focussed on the task at hand, there is a greater chance that you’ll be involved in an accident.”
Sadly South Africa has an exceptionally high number of pedestrian deaths every year. “Unfortunately our road infrastructure does not cater for pedestrians so drivers need to become more conscious and adapt their speed in locations where there are many pedestrians. You can’t control the actions of others, but you can be proactive. Advanced driving courses help you develop skills such as hazard perception and more assertive driving. These drivers have been proven less likely to be involved in a road incident,” says Ranft.
Below are a few additional tips for improved road safety:
• “Be alert for motorcyclists: Think Bike – share the road”
• Keep an eye out for pedestrians at intersections.
• Ensure that your windscreen view is not obscured by a larger vehicle. Rather move over to a lane where you can view at least two to three cars ahead of you, so you have room to manoeuvre should you need to brake in an emergency.
• Be aware of other drivers’ actions – if they’re following too closely, move into another lane; keep an eye out for vehicles that change lanes without indicating.