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Drive defensively for a safer festive season

The festive season is almost upon us. Holidays at the coast. Christmas parties. Long drives to families in the countryside. It’s no wonder December is the most eagerly anticipated time of the year. It is also, with the overload of vehicles on our country’s roads, the most dangerous time to drive.

Tiger Wheel & Tyre has put together practical steps you can take to increase the safety of you and your loved ones. We also take a look at the unique challenges on South Africa’s roads.

Wikipedia defines defensive driving as driving to save lives, time, and money, in spite of the conditions around you and the actions of others. Your parents and driving school would probably have covered the basic principles but you may have forgotten them over time, so it’s important to refresh your memory and stay abreast of current trends.

There are, essentially, three principles to defensive driving.

1. Put safety first by following the rules of the road.

  • Speed kills, as you have less control of your vehicle and less time to react to hazards on the road. So, go easy on the accelerator.
  • Obey traffic signs and lights. They are there to maintain a rules-based road network and, if everyone followed them, it would drastically reduce road dangers.
  • Tailor your driving to the weather. If there are Highveld storms for instance, visibility is reduced, so cut your speed, increase following distances, and turn on your lights or hazards.
  • Office parties are a great way to end the year, but don’t drive under the influence of alcohol, or when you’re sleep deprived.

2. Be courteous on the roads, but never assume it of other drivers.

Manners cost nothing. It could mean letting someone into your lane, or showing gratitude to other courteous drivers. If everyone drove with manners and predictability, the roads would be a much safer place. As we all know, however, not everyone does. So, assume the worst of others and drive accordingly. Give everyone ample space, and you’ll protect yourself, no matter what they do.

3. Keep your car running optimally with regular maintenance.

Defensive manoeuvres such as quick braking and swerving to avoid dangers will only work if your car is capable. Ensure your vehicle is in tip-top shape, especially before a long trip over the holidays. Top up your car’s fluids. Ensure hoses and belts are in good condition and properly attached. Make sure your tyres, as well as your spare, are in good shape and inflated to the correct pressure.

Let’s look at unique challenges motorists face on South African roads.

  • Lack of road maintenance, like potholes, streetlights not working, non-existent signage, and soft or deep road edges means our country’s roads are a disaster waiting to happen. Drive accordingly.
  • Nature can also be a threat, especially flooded roads after torrential rain. Stay alert to official warnings. Listen to radio traffic reports. Increase following distances. And make sure your tyres are in good condition, and have ample tread.
  • This is Africa, so that means a much higher chance of animals on the road, from cattle to buck to stray dogs. Stay alert.
  • Criminals lay spikes on the road to puncture tyres. Motorists are forced to stop and are now vulnerable to being attacked and robbed. Ensure you are off the road before traffic quietens drastically. Don’t drive over anything in the road, like plastic bags, as these can be used to disguise spikes. Drive a few extra seconds behind other motorists so their driving behaviour can alert you to potential threats.

And remember, you’re on holiday. There’s no rush. Take plenty of breaks on long journeys. You’ll stay fresh and alert to dangers.

Start your preparation for the holiday season by ensuring your tyres are in top condition. Visit your nearest Tiger Wheel & Tyre, and we’ll give your car a free tyre safety check, and give you peace of mind for your trip.

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