Car accidents in South Africa are astronomically high. Over 4 500 people died on South African roads between 2014 and 2015, according to the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC). That’s a scary number, and it’s why the International Transport Forum rated South Africa the worst out of 36 countries when it came to road fatalities in 2013. But it’s not all bad news.
Luckily, there’s a lot in your control as a driver. Charl Grobler, the manager of marketing and product planning at Suzuki South Africa, shared some tips, tricks and hacks to keep you safe on the road. Best of all, they’re simple to execute.1. SIDE MIRRORS “Adjusting your mirrors correctly is a crucial first step,” says Charl. Modern car mirrors are convex and give a bigger field of vision than previously, so if they’re adjusted correctly you shouldn’t have a blind spot. A perfectly adjusted side mirror has the back door handle in its bottom corner, as in the image below:
Watch the below gif to see the correct and incorrect ways to adjust your side mirrors.
Image from SmartMotorist.com
2. STOPPING DISTANCE AT A ROBOT OR STOP STREET Make sure you can see where the wheels of the car ahead of you touch the ground. “If a car drives into you from behind, you won’t crash into the car in front of you,” says Charl, “And it gives you room to move away if something happens.”
3. FOLLOWING DISTANCE Most people know to keep a healthy following distance, but few realise, as Charl says, “your stopping distance increases exponentially with speed and weight.” The heavier your car, and the faster it’s going, the more distance you need to leave between you and the car in front of you - and not a little bit more. See the diagramme below; just based on speed:
If your car is also heavily loaded, say because you’re going on holiday, these distances increase even more.
4. KEEP YOUR HEADLIGHTS ON “More and more cars come with daytime running lights, because it makes your car more visible on the road,” says Charl, “Darker coloured cars, grey and dark silver especially, are hard to see on the road because they’re the same colour as the tar. White cars are more visible.”
5. DON’T BE AFRAID TO SLAM ON BRAKES With ABS brakes installed in pretty much all cars on the road, don’t be afraid to slam down if you need to. The juddering, shuddering noise and movement of the car when the brakes are fully engaged actually means the ABS system is working. The advantage of ABS brakes is with the braking and releasing mechanism that causes the juddering feel, you can actually swerve around a danger without fear of skidding or your wheels locking. Use those brakes.
6. CONSTANT VIGILANCE! Says Charl, “Anything unpredictable on the roads is a risk.” Drunk pedestrians, driving near a school, overloaded vehicles and animals are all elements that need an extra level of alertness because they could act unexpectedly. “Actively judge what level of risk each of these could pose and adjust your driving accordingly,” he adds.
7. BEWARE TRUCKS AND BULKY VEHICLES It’s not the drivers that pose a risk, but the nature of the vehicles themselves. A heavy truck has more momentum behind it, a far longer stopping distance and far less chance of reacting to a danger in real time than a smaller car. There’s even a chance a truck’s brakes could fail on something like a downhill. “Be ready to overtake them if you need to, and rather take the risk of speeding up slightly to put the truck behind you than drive alongside or behind it,” says Charl.
8. CHECK YOUR TYRE PRESSURE This is absolutely crucial and the easiest thing in the world to check, says Charl. Check your tyre pressure against the recommended numbers located in the driver’s door, on the B-pillar, and it’s best to keep a tyre pressure gauge handy that you know is accurate. Charl says, “Your tyre is the only part of your car that actually has contact with the road, and it has such a huge impact on your driving.” An under-inflated tyre will overheat, decrease your turning circle and possibly blow out, and an overinflated tyre will put strain on the rubber and wear out sooner and also faces the risk of blowing out.
9. HEAD RESTRAINT HEIGHT Most people don’t pay attention to this detail, but have you checked that your head restraints are correctly adjusted? “The top of your ear should reach the middle of your head rest,” says Charl. If you’re tall, put it at the highest setting. The head rest was designed to protect your neck against serious braking and whiplash if hit from behind, and not to actually rest your head upon.
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