Four ways not to die in December
When GP plates clog our roads, it’s time for locals to go take nice photos somewhere else
WITH seven days to Christmas, our beloved Gauteng is in the process of sending not a single president in an impeached tree, but a lot of empty bottles with a partridge on the side.
These empty bottles over the festive season mean drunk driving awaits, which will make driving on our already dangerous roads like playing Russian roulette with cars.
But as the stats show, four of the chambers are loaded.
Last year saw 1 376 people die on South Africa’s roads during December, according to Transport Minister Dipuo Peters.
KwaZulu- Natal had the highest number of road deaths at 284 people from 237 crashes, most of them in the last two weeks of December.
The only way to avoid this annual lemming rush on our roads is to stay off the roads, but because that is not possible, we asked South Africa’s top forensic crash analyst, Greyville- based Craig Proctor- Parker, what not to do on our roads in order to avoid becoming an ancestor.
The first piece of advice is to know with absolute certainty that there are at least two drivers on the same road who are out to get you and your family.
The only way to dodge the terminal traps these drivers are setting behind and in front of you is to drive slowly and defensively, taking breaks often to help your concentration in this battle of the brakes.
The danger behind the hill
Proctor- Parker said that year on year, KZN remains among the top two provinces for risk of being involved in a serious accident. He said slow overtaking over solid lines and on blind rises and blind corners is a massive problem in KZN, and counselled all visiting drivers to be aware of this danger, especially where a heavily loaded vehicle is ever so slowly trying to overtake another, slightly slower, truck.
“This leads to the extremely high number of partial head- on type accidents that we see, which is the most dangerous type of ac- cident — our and all stats show these as the highest by far,” Proctor Parker told Wheels.
It is not just the terminally stupid who overtake on blind hills, but also the holiday driver who cannot understand why her or his trusted little car now suddenly cannot accelerate or brake as fast as it always does with no load on the daily commute.
The result is a wide- eyed Gautenger stuck on the wrong side of a wall of steel made up of two, slow- moving trucks and a fast- approaching line of cars from the front.
Proctor- Parker said he has analysed the remains of many a family where inexperience led to a driver in a heavily loaded vehicles with no acceleration failing to complete an overtake in time.
The wobbly sidewalls
Commenting on another issue which visiting drivers often forget about — under- inflated tyres due to overloading and more dense air pressure at the coast — Proctor- Parker said the stats worldwide and most particularly here in SA, show that most drivers ride on under- inflated tyres.
Bike riders know there is no such thing as a tyre pumped too hard. While harder tyres do give a bumpier ride, the sidewall of a tyre pumped a little too hard will deform less in extreme situations, wear down slower and offer lower rolling resistance for better fuel consumption.
Proctor- Parker said he has seen many crashes due to too-soft tyres carrying heavy loads made up by passengers and their extensive holiday baggage, and counselled drivers to pump those tyres. He also warned that plugs in tyres often cause a delamination of the tyre where the vehicle is overloaded or the tyre is under pressure.
Time those runs to safety
Lemmings rush at the same time and humans are no different, which makes for an easy way to avoid the bigger waves of terminally stupid holders of steering wheels — just stay off the roads when they are on them.
According to the stats of Proctor- Parker, the top three most dangerous times for accidents by far are shown to be:
• before or during dusk between 4 pm and 6 pm;
• during or after dawn between 6 am and 8 am; and
• the morning rush between 8 am and 10 am.
These periods are not only when KZN’s many unroadworthy vehicles with poor brakes, smooth tyres, old suspensions and smearing windscreen wipers will be on the prowl for a crash, but also when the drivers in fast new cars who have all the best intentions but the poorest judgment will be driving.
Proctor- Parker said human error remains the biggest cause of accidents, which typically includes:
• inexperience in driving a heavily loaded passenger car;
• lack of maintenance of the vehicle, such as driving vehicles with smooth or under- inflated tyres; and
• travelling at speeds well in excess of the speed limit, which effectively reduces the time available to react to a danger and perhaps most problematic, causes severe control issues when a tyre failure does occur.
Slow down and win a prize
Many drivers boast they can drive from Johannesburg to Durban in less than five hours.
First off, the average speed cameras will get them. Second, every truck driver doing just 80 km/ h will tell you these fools will always pass them twice, because they have to stop to fill up.
And third, these fools miss the whole point of a holiday in KZN, which is to change the pace, to slow down, even to pull off and smell the roses.
What’s more, travellers who take a photo of that rose ( or any other object) in the most photogenic setting, stand a chance to win one of several cash prizes of thousands of rands in the annual N3TC photo competition.
• Details of the R15 000 prize money that awaits top photos from KZN are on www. n3tc . co. za/ photographic- competitions.
• Reach Proctor- Parker on accidentspecialist.co.za
A photo by Abigail West that won this year’s scholar category in the N3TC’s annual photo competition. Families driving to KZN will do well to slow down and live the journey.