Keep your eyes on the road
The nut behind the wheel is the primary cause of collisions
Road accidents are a terrible reality: According to the World Health Organisation about half a million people die annually due to malaria, but double that lose their lives in road accidents. South Africa does particularly badly – we have the highest number of road deaths per 100 000 people, and to make matters worse, a study by Discovery Insure showed your chances of being involved in an accident are highest when you travel long distances by car during the holidays.
In Discovery’s study the behaviour of motorists travelling long distances during the holidays is compared to that of those commuting in cities daily. It seems drivers travelling during holidays are more impatient, because speed infringements increase by 26% during this time. More people also tend to drive at night during this time, because this number also increases by 5,5%.
According to an official report titled “Snapshot of the Road Traffic Management in South Africa”, which documented accidents in 2011, more than 60% of all fatal accidents occurred over weekends. This is a dreary picture, but from these statistics you can learn some lessons to make travelling safer.
Be careful on a Friday. According to Discovery’s research there’s 15% more traffic on the roads on a Friday. It seems the impatience to get to weekend destinations also makes people worse drivers, because according to the report this is also the time when most people speed and drive recklessly. Be afraid of the dark. It’s better not to drive between 10 at night and four in the morning. Your chances of being in an accident are ten times higher than at any other time during the day. It will be a mission to get everyone in the car late at night anyway. Everything keeps going right... If you check your vehicle carefully to ensure it’s roadworthy before you depart, you lower your chances of being in an accident by a good 15%. (Chances of a family fight while
you wait for a towing service are also considerably lower...)
TAKE IT EASY
It’s common knowledge that you must stop and stretch your legs regularly when you travel far. According to Discovery the drive from Gauteng to the Kwazulu-natal coast will take you five and a half hours if you stop and take a 15-minute break every two hours. If you drive straight through – and 5km faster than the speed limit while you’re at it – you’ll reach your destination an hour earlier, but your chances of not arriving at all, also double. This is besides the fact that you’ll get tired behind the wheel.
Let’s be honest: No vehicle gets into an accident by itself. Someone must do something – or not do something – to cause an accident. Drivers’ negligence is the biggest cause of accidents. This refers to stupid behaviour like ignoring the speed limit or reckless driving – like overtaking on an unsighted/blind hill. To smoke, eat or drink (even if it’s only food or a cooldrink) while driving, distracts you and increases your chance of getting in an accident. And then there are the cellphones...
RATHER CALL LATER
Your chances of getting in an accident are four times greater when you use your cellphone while driving. Anton Ossip, chief executive at Discovery Insure, says two thirds of drivers use their phones while they drive, and many even try sending SMSES while behind the wheel. According to Discovery’s research drivers in Limpopo are most prone to use their phones while driving, while Capetonians are the most law-abiding in this regard. Apparently about 40% of cellphone users in vehicles have a hands-free kit, but 80% of all calls made from cars are made without these.
Discovery reckons your attention is distracted for almost a minute when you use your cellphone. This is like driving with your eyes closed for 1km at 60km/h.
Thirty, forty years ago wearing a seatbelt wasn’t compulsory, but today there’s no doubt about how many lives it saves. According to the government’s report 67% of occupants on the front seats of cars faithfully wear their seatbelts. They reckon if this
number increases to 80% for front and backseats, the number of fatalities will decrease by 30%.
go! Drive & Camp says It’s easy to point fingers when someone angers you on the road, but keep your side clean first (and hope other motorists do the same).
Sources: Discovery Insure, the Road Traffic Management Corporation and the national department of transport.