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Safety tips to consider before hitting the road

By Staff Writer
Before setting out on your holiday this summer, Justmoney spoke to the Automobile Association of South Africa (AA) for some safety tips you should adhere to.
 
How long should you drive before taking a break?
 
The AA advises that you should have a break after every two hours or every 200 kilometres (km). However, this is just a guide, if you feel tired you should take a break immediately.
 
“If you are not concentrating as you should, or you feel your body is wary, then certainly you have to take a break immediately. And then only proceed with your journey once you feel comfortable that you are in the right frame of mind and you are alert and able to handle the vehicle,” says the AA.
 
The point of the break is to stretch your legs and revitalise yourself before starting the next stage of your journey. It is important that you are alert again before setting off.
 
Taking a break when driving is especially important if you have passengers in the vehicle with you.
 
If you have other passengers in the vehicle who are able to drive and you take turns at driving, it is still important to have breaks where you can swop drivers and stretch your legs.
 
What checks should you carry out before leaving?
 
First and foremost, the AA highlights that you should always have a car that is in a good working condition, is mechanically sounds and is ready to be taken on a long trip. The AA points out that some of the most important things that you should check are:
 
  • Are your tyres in a good condition;
  • Are the tyres pumped to the correct levels, in other words, they are not inflated too much or too little;
  • Do you have a spare tyre and is it in good condition;
  • Do your windscreen wipers work properly;
  • Do your brake lights work;
  • Do your indicators work;
  • Do your brakes work;
  • Is your vehicle’s wheel alignment correct;
  • Is my car safe, do seatbelts work etc.
 
The AA emphasises that these are important things to check before going on a long journey.
 
What should you do if travelling in tough weather conditions?
 
The weather can be unpredictable at times. If you are driving and it starts to rain or there are very strong winds or another weather condition that is making it difficult for you to drive it is important that you maintain a safe following distance.
 
The AA says that you should always ask yourself, “At the speed at which I am travelling, if the car in front of me were to brake suddenly, would I be able to brake with enough space to stop before I smash into the back of them?”
 
The AA advises giving yourself a two second gap between yourself and the car in front of you. To do this, you can find a marker on the side of the road, and count the time from when the car in front of you passed it to when you pass it, it should take you two seconds to reach the marker.
 
However, in tough weather conditions the AA suggests increasing the following distance up to six or eight seconds.
 
In addition to maintaining a safe following distance, it is also important to ensure that you are visible on the road, as well as to reduce your speed.
 
“If you feel at any stage that you cannot drive because the winds or the rain is so hard that you physically cannot see or you cannot go any further, it is advisable to pull off the road and to wait it out. Rather wait an hour or two and be safe, than continue with a journey that may be extremely dangerous,” states the AA.
 
What should you have in the car with you on a long journey?
 
There are a number of things that you should have in the car with you, not only when going on a long journey, to assist in the event that something goes wrong. These include:
 
  • An emergency first aid kit,
  • A spare tyre,
  • All the necessary tools to change a flat tyre, and
  • A red triangle for use in the event that you do breakdown, it is the law for all vehicles to have a triangle.
 
In addition, if you are travelling with other passengers in the vehicle, especially children, it is important to have something in the car to keep them busy and entertained.
 
If you are a member of the AA or have another form or roadside assistance, it is important to keep the contact number and your membership information on you in the event that something happens and you need to contact them for assistance.
 
Tips for travelling with small children
 
It is easy to get distracted when there are others in the car, this is particularly true when travelling with small children who may want your attention or are doing something that may detract your attention away from the road.
 
Most importantly when travelling with children it is vital that you buckle them into the seat. “If you are travelling with children who are three years and younger, it is now a legal requirement that they are in an SABS approved seat and that it is installed in the correct way in the vehicle and that they are buckled up in that,” says the AA.
 
It is also advised that you make sure that the children are comfortable and looked after. Taking a break while driving will also not only help the driver, but will be good for children and other passengers in the vehicle too.
 
What is the best time of day to travel?
 
This is a completely personal choice and what you are comfortable with when driving. However, the AA stresses that no matter what time of day you leave for a journey, you must always follow the rules of the road.
 
Driving in the early hours of the morning, you may find more trucks on the road than if you left at a later time, which should be considered when planning a journey. There are also roads which do not have streetlights on them, which may be a consideration when planning to leave early in the morning or late at night.
 
“Obviously if you are night blind or you have issues with seeing at certain parts of the day, you shouldn’t be driving at those times of the day. It’s all about when are you most comfortable leaving and when will it be safest for you,” notes the AA.
 
Drinking and driving
 
Most importantly, especially coming up to the festive season, it is important that you do not drink and drive. The AA has the message of “drink or drive”. However, if you are planning to go out and drink, there are other options to get home besides driving yourself. These include, having a designated driver in the group or making use of a get home service.
 
There are several banks and insurance companies that offer get home services to their customers, either free of charge or for a fee, giving you the peace of mind that you can go out and have a good time and still get home safely.
 
If you are on the roads and you see others who are driving recklessly and are possibly drunk, the AA advises that you contact the nearest police station or the municipal traffic authority to inform them as soon as possible. In addition, you should avoid getting too close to the vehicle or driving next to them, and avoid them as far as possible.
 
For more information on how to get home after a night out, click here.

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