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

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - AL­WYN VILJOEN

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

PHOTO: N3TC. 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.

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