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Defensive driving tips every South African should know

By late December, close to 600 South Africans have lost their lives in road rage accidents. Simple defensive driving tips can help keep you safe on the road, says Nunben Dixon, Head of Gumtree Automotive.
Here are five tips to help you avoid a car crash.

Maintain a vigilant focus and keep your cool

Distracted driving – which includes behaviour such as adjusting the radio or aircon, conversations with passengers or texting/answering a phone call – is frequently listed as the cause of an accident. “Avoid road rage accidents – if someone thinks they have the right of way, and you disagree, just let them go ahead. It’s better to lose time than to get involved in a collision.”

Slow down and keep a safe following distance

Speeding is extremely dangerous. The faster you travel, the longer it takes to stop if you need to react quickly. Hitting a pothole or animal crossing the road at high speed can cause catastrophic damage. Slow down and maintain a safe following distance.

How to avoid and respond to Hydroplaning

Rain can be dangerous for drivers. The road is slicker as the rain stirs up spilled oil and other substances, visibility is lower and puddles can hide sharp objects or potholes. Slow down, turn off cruise control and extend your following distance. Hydroplaning occurs when too much water has built up in your tires and they lose contact with the road. The car might start to veer when you are driving straight, or slip towards the outside of the bend or skid, you are probably hydroplaning.
Don’t slam the brakes or swerve. Overreaction is usually what leads to an accident. Wait for the skid to stop, ease your foot off the brake and calmly steer your car in the direction you want it to go. Maintain a firm grip on the wheel and do not jerk the wheel.

Know how to crash

Some crashes are unavoidable. If you realize that you are going to be involved in a collision, keep calm and bear the following in mind:

  • Use your hooter or flash your lights to alert other drivers
  • Avoid braking hard or yanking the wheel to the side of the road. You might want to instinctively swerve into the next lane, but be aware of oncoming traffic
  • Reduce your speed immediately
  • Do not duck forward. This can compromise the effectiveness of the seat belt and the air bags. Stay upright.

Use the safety tools at your disposal

Dixon says that the safety tools your car is equipped with is your best defense. “Make sure that your tyres are maintained properly. Check them each time you fill up with petrol. Wear your seatbelt, use your indicators and do not modify your car illegally.”