Windscreens are one of the foremost safety-critical components on any vehicle and it is not safe to drive with a damaged windscreen, warns Vishal Premlall, national director of the Tyres Equipment Parts Association (TEPA), a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry (RMI).
Considering it is a new year and everyone is going back to work and travelling daily, he encourages motorists to inspect their windscreens for damage and have the necessary repairs or replacements done.
The National Road Traffic Act states no person shall operate on a public road any motor vehicle having a windscreen, window or partition made of transparent material unless the material affords the driver sufficient visibility for safe driving of such vehicle and is clearly identifiable as safety glass.
TEPA highlights that it is important for a windscreen to have the SABS mark, which ensures that whether manufactured locally or imported the windscreen complies with the necessary safety standards associated with glass.
“Driving with a cracked windscreen, especially where the crack directly obscures driver vision, is unsafe. And driving with a cracked windscreen in the rain, obscures vision even further.
“You can get behind the wheel with a crack in the windscreen that is not in your line of sight but be warned that depending on the severity of the crack you can be fined for operating a vehicle in a dangerous condition,” says Johann van der Merwe, TEPA Chairman.
“Also, a small chip can turn into a crack that stretches across the windscreen in no time. If your vision is obstructed by a crack in the windscreen, you are at risk of causing an accident.
TEPA accepts that windscreen damage remains prevalent in South Africa due to the many hazards on our roads, the most common being rocks and debris kicked up by other vehicles or from roads under construction or in poor condition.
A bit of flying debris can cause a small chip in the windscreen, which may not concern you at first. Depending on the size and nature of the chip, it can be repaired. Alternatively, a full windscreen replacement would be required.
Premlall reminds motorists that a windscreen is an integral part of a car’s support structure.
“A bit of damage may not be apparent in normal driving conditions but if you are in an accident the compromised windscreen can become deadly.
“The windscreen is a critical element in the vehicle’s structural integrity and provides key safety benefits to the occupants in the event of an accident,” he says.
Other safety-critical features of an intact windscreen include:
• It offers vertical support to prevent the car’s roof from crushing in during a rollover.
• When an airbag deploys during an accident, it expands outward and compresses against the windscreen before pillowing out to shield the passenger. If the windscreen is compromised, it cannot properly absorb the force of the airbag and can shatter.
• The windscreen can provide a final layer of protection for passengers without seatbelts on in a crash, ensuring they remain within the interior of the car.
“Don’t take any chances with safety. Repair a windscreen chip as soon as possible before too much dirt gets in and starts to damage the glass, and eventually expands into a large crack that will lead to a full replacement.
“Many insurance companies allow repair of chips and cracks free before it comes to a full replacement. Beware of scams at certain shopping centres where windscreen repairs are offered and they use “super glue” products to “fix” a windscreen, as this is certainly not a legitimate repair method.
“Keep your vehicle roadworthy and safe for your loved ones by calling into an accredited TEPA fitment centre for routine checks ahead of long trips. Don’t let a small problem become a problem that could cost you your life. Replacing your windscreen could save your life,” concludes Premlall.