Ten safety tips while on the road
Use your head
These days, with the Global Positioning System (GPS) on our phones redirecting us around traffic, we often don’t have to plan much at all before we hop into the car.
Usually, of course, that’s a great thing. It’s delightful when you do not have to carry around a map or stop and ask random strangers for directions.
Still, just because you have your trusty GPS device telling you where to turn doesn’t mean you can turn your brain off. Don’t drive into a pond or through a construction zone just because your GPS says so!
Allow enough time
We’re all busy these days, and that can often lead to running late to work or racing to pick up your child from school.
Hurrying your driving may seem normal to you, but it’s definitely more dangerous and stressful than driving when you know you have enough time to get from point A to point B.
In fact, if possible, it’s always best to have a little extra time, just in case you run into traffic or have to circle around unexpected construction.
After all, saving a minute off of your commute is hardly worth causing an accident or getting arrested.
We’ve all heard time and again not to drink and drive, but less people realise how important it is not to text and drive. Text driving is as dangerous as driving under the influence.
Best tip is to just try to concentrate on the road when you’re driving. Leave your smartphone to peace until you get to your destination or a bathroom break.
Check the weather
This is a small step that can go a long way, especially at this particular point in time when flooding has become the new ‘normal’.
Not only will it help you predict delays, but it can also help you get your car (and yourself) ready.
Just like you may want rain boots in case of a downpour or sunglasses for driving into the sunset, you need different things for your car under different conditions.
Let’s face it, road rage affects just about everyone; it can happen to the calmest and most patient among us, often for no good reason.
If you find yourself growing irritated as you settle into the tail end of a traffic jam or as a driver cuts you off, take a deep breath and try to put it all into perspective.
Is this a life and death situation? Or are you just going to be a little late to work? Think about that driver who cut you off — maybe it’s a mother racing to pick up her child who just fell at school and broke their arm.
You never know, and you probably can’t do anything about your situation anyway. So just find something good on the radio and let it be.
Maintain regular maintenance
If you have a car, you need to keep it in shape or you are risking a number of potentially dangerous and expensive problems. You need to change your oil after the required mileage, keep tabs on the air in your tyres and immediately replace any lights that go out.
If the check engine light or some other warning sign goes on, get the car checked out first thing; don’t just cross your fingers and hope it goes away.
Don’t hog the road
Are you on the highway preparing to exit? Be courteous to other drivers and signal your intentions. Sharing your plans with other motorists allows them to plan around you; getting out of your way if you are merging, slowing down if they’re behind you and see that you’re about to turn, and so on.
Of course, you also need to be watching for handcarts, bicycles and other smaller or slower forms of transportation. Allow them the space and time they need and always keep your eyes out for them, particularly in your mirrors.
Don’t drive sleepy
If you’ll be driving for long stretches of time, on a road trip or similar, be sure to get plenty of sleep the night before. Also, you should take breaks at least every few hours, even if it is just to stretch your legs and go to the bathroom.
Eat healthy meals at regular intervals to keep your energy steady. And, if at all possible, get someone to come along to share the driving with you.
Or, if they’re not up for driving, at least see if someone will come along for company — they can act as a navigator and carry on the conversation to keep you awake and alert.
Prepare for emergencies
Though of course we all hope to avoid accidents or breakdowns, you still need to be prepared at all times. Make sure you carry your insurance information booklet with you whenever you drive and have any necessary phone numbers for tow trucks or whatever you may need on hand.
Also be sure to keep emergency supplies, including jumper cables, a spare tire and a basic tool and first aid box (a wheel spanner, screwdriver, torch, car jack, rope, knife, bandages, super glue and painkillers, among others) in the car at all times.
Just don’t forget that the choices you make when you’re behind the wheel can have big consequences. Always be prepared, whether it’s for a rainstorm or a fender bender (a minor collision between motor vehicles), and don’t let your emotions get the better of you. Don’t panic incase of an unforeseeable incident. A calm, focused driver is a safe driver.