With the holiday season upon us, many people will plan a leisurely road trip to a new destination. With so many cars for sale, perhaps you are shopping for a new set of wheels to take on the road?
While a road trip is certainly the best way to explore our beautiful country, it also means that there will be more cars on the road, and more risk of accidents. Here’s how to keep your car and family safe on your road trip with some careful checks and clever planning.
The checks to make before you go
If you’re going to be driving long distances, ensure your car is in tiptop condition – especially in unfavourable weather conditions.
Tyre maintenance: Ensure that wheel alignment and balancing have been carried out, that tyres are in a good condition, that the tyre tread is within legal limits and that your tyre pressure is according to the specifications of the manufacturer. Don’t forget to check your spare wheel.
Check your oil and the coolant of your vehicle.
Windscreen and wiper check: Ensure that your windscreen is free of cracks and stone chips, which can influence your visibility. Your front and rear wipers should be in a good working order to clear rain and debris from the glass. Remember to fill up your windscreen wash.
Book that service: To avoid the inconvenience and expense of a mechanical breakdown, it’s a good idea to stick to the service intervals as prescribed by your vehicle manufacturer.
How’s your paperwork? Getting caught with an expired driver’s licence card or licencing disk is a hassle you can do without on your holiday so be sure to adhere to legislation.
Stock your emergency supply: Invest in a first-aid kit to help you deal with road trip headaches like motion sickness and small cuts. A torch, glow-in-the-dark triangles and plenty of water and wet wipes are always handy things to carry with you in the car.
Planning your journey
Deciding beforehand which routes to take and at which spots to rest will make your drive a less stressful experience - especially if you have little ones in the car! Don’t try to cover too much distance in one day - tiredness and lack of concentration often lead to accidents. When you plan your trip:
- Keep an eye on the news, listen to radio reports or check Twitter (e.g. @TrafficSA or #Traffic) for weather predictions, route updates and traffic alerts.
- Use apps such as Waze and Google maps to plan your routes and to see where the most congested areas are.
- Share the responsibility of driving so that you can take turns driving long distances.
- Nominate someone to be your ‘guardian’ while you’re driving, i.e. follow your progress. The Santam App with Be Safe functionality will notify this person once you have reached your destination and will send them alerts via SMS if you are delayed for any reason.
Driving tips for your road trip
Some things are complete non-negotiables when you’re driving long distances, such as drunk driving - the biggest cause of road accidents in South Africa - and texting or talking on your cellphone whilst driving.
Always wear a safety belt and make sure all the passengers in the vehicle do too. If boisterous children are distracting you, don’t hesitate to make a stop to calm them down, and be sure to pack lots of games to keep them entertained.
Don’t overload your vehicle. Is it really worth being the camper with the coolest gear if it makes you car top heavy and unsafe on the road?
Look out for road hazards, always expecting the unexpected. Advance driving instructors will always tell you to think and look as far ahead as possible, anticipating what fellow drivers - and pedestrians - might do next.
Never disobey the speed limit, and keep a safe following distance: Accidents often happen when cars are overtaking one another, misjudging distances and timing.
Be on the lookout for obstructions like potholes or animals, especially in rural areas.
Did you know? Santam offers its car and household insurance policyholders six free SOS services which include roadside assistance, route assistance and home drive assistance. Read more about insurance good and proper here, or contact us for a free quote. Visit our car advice page for more road safety tips.