With the Easter weekend just around the corner, motorists are reminded to keep safety top of mind. Every year the number of accidents and fatalities on our roads over Easter is alarming. Dewald Ranft, Chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association, says all drivers need to take responsibility for their vehicles and the way they behave on the road to reduce the accident rate.
Major contributory factors to the Easter season fatal crashes include speeding, overtaking when it is not safe to do so, fatigue, overloading and tyre bursts.
“The first issue that needs to be addressed is vehicles that have not been serviced and are not roadworthy attempting to make long road trips. These vehicles are a hazard, not only to the passengers inside them but to other drivers too. A tyre blow-out, for example, can result in pieces of rubber flying up onto the road, hitting other vehicles and causing accidents as drivers swerve to avoid the debris,” says Ranft.
He highly recommends that vehicle owners get their vehicles checked and serviced at an accredited MIWA workshop before venturing out on the road. “Important checks to remember include tyres, oil, brakes, windscreen wipers and water spray, and the engine cooling fan,” he says.
“Secondly drivers need to be aware of the dangers of driving long distances. Many accidents could be avoided if drivers are alert, patient, and considerate to other road users and, most importantly, take regular breaks. Rather give yourself extra time to get to your destination so you don’t feel the need to rush. Keep calm and don’t take chances.”
He offers these additional tips for drivers getting behind the wheel in the next few weeks:
BEFORE YOU LEAVE
• Get enough sleep and plan your route. It is important to plan your route, including refuelling points, rest points and any overnight stops if necessary. Also ensure you get enough sleep the night before your trip to ensure you are not tired when driving.
• Check your car – Before departing it is essential to check that your car is also properly prepared for a long road trip – double check the headlights, indicators, shocks, stop lights, tail-lights, windscreen wipers, mirrors, brakes, steering, tyres, oil and water. Remember to also ensure that your spare wheel is in good condition.
• Charge the cell – Importantly, also remember to properly charge your cell phone, so you can contact emergency services should you need to. Please do not use your cell when driving unless you have a hands-free option. Talking on a cell phone while driving takes one’s complete focus off the road which could result in an accident.
ON THE ROAD
• Seatbelts a must – Using seat belts is important for any road journey – in both the front seat and the back seat. Children under 12 should ideally be secured in a back seat.
• Rain and slippery roads – During rainy weather, motorists can expect that slippery roads, traffic slowdowns and decreased visibility will make driving hazardous, even at moderate speeds. However, there are some precautions that you can take. Drivers need to remember to allow extra following distances, to not slam on brakes but instead apply a steady, light and firm pressure, to drive in the centre lane and avoid the outside lane as water often collects in these areas and to use their headlights.
• Take breaks – Fatigue plays a large part in the number of road accidents we see during April. Drivers and passengers should be aware of any signs of fatigue. If the driver is drifting from lane to lane and jerking the vehicle back again, is daydreaming, constantly yawning, having difficulty focusing or keeping his/her eyes open – it is time to stop and take a rest. Don’t rely on the radio or fresh air from an open window to keep you awake, rather pull off into a safe area until you feel ready to drive again.
• Stop in a safe spot – If you do need to rest, avoid suspicious areas and keep all your doors locked. Where possible, rather pull over to a designated rest stop or roadside restaurant. Always remember to keep your valuables out of sight and to lock your car.
“Let’s make sure this is a relaxed and accident-free Easter,” he concludes.