SAFE HOLIDAY JOURNEYS: TOO MANY DRIVERS STILL SET OFF UNPREPARED
Every year, thousands of motorists across South Africa set off on long, often exhausting journeys without adequate preparation of their vehicles or enough rest. Yet research has shown that badly maintained vehicles and fatigued drivers are two biggest causes of accidents over the festive season. A well-maintained, well-prepared vehicle ensures a smooth start
Many breakdowns occur during the departing journey
Many people still rush off straight from work to their holiday destination. In their rush to leave, they often skimp on checking and preparing their vehicles adequately for the journey. Not surprisingly, this is often reflected in problems experienced during the departing trip. Estimates suggest that fatigue is a factor in up to 30 % of fatal crashes and 15 % of serious injury crashes.
“A safe, relaxed journey begins by having your vehicle – car, caravan or trailer – checked and well maintained before you depart,” says Lize Hayward, Goodyear Group Public Relations Manager. “No one wants to have their trip interrupted by a break-down. Many of the problems, however, can be prevented by regular maintenance and care. An extra check-up of your vehicle before departure can save you a lot of hassle and help you get to your destination smoothly and safely.”
Drive to stay alive – driving with the right attitude.
Driving, whether it’s a journey of 500 kilometres or it involves a long trek of over 1000 kilometres, brings its own set of challenges: high volumes of traffic, long distances and the combination of day- and night time driving can test a driver’s limits.
Fatigue underestimated as prime cause of accidents
Research shows that many drivers still underestimate the effect of fatigue, drowsiness and decreasing alertness on their driving abilities.
“Driving to one’s holiday destination is not at all like the driving we do daily between home, work and social commitments. Going on a long motoring journey brings its own set of challenges that we need to take into consideration,” says Hayward: “Unfamiliar roads, long hours behind the wheel, day- and night time driving coupled with a family impatient to get to its destination is not an everyday driving occurrence.”
Night-time driving takes its toll
Many drivers prefer to drive during the night-time to avoid driving in heavy traffic or during the heat of the day. Night-time driving takes its toll on the body, however, and this is all too often underestimated.
About 40% of accidents occur at night. This is not surprising, as night-time driving decreases one’s driving abilities. Swaying in lanes, an inability to keep a constant speed and an increased number of steering corrections are the result. “If you do decide to drive at night, make sure your car is prepared: clean headlights, taillights, signal lights and windows are elementary necessities for safe night-time driving. Make sure your headlights are aimed properly so they illuminate the road properly and don’t blind other drivers. Reduce your speed and increase your following distance when driving at night. Remember that it is more difficult to judge other vehicles’ speed and distance at night,” advises Hayward.
Planning for safe driving
Planning the journey ahead – including rest and stop-over points – helps break it down into realistic, manageable drives that get you to your destination safely and relaxed.
“Planning where to take rest stops along the way before setting off helps drivers keep to realistic, manageable distances. It’s a fact that drivers who don’t plan rest stops often push themselves just that little bit extra to drive another few kilometres, and that’s when the risks start to increase. Fatigue limits one’s co-ordination and ability to multitask effectively; these are key to your job as a driver,” says Hayward.
• Begin your journey well rested! Have a good night’s sleep before you set off.
• Respect your biorhythm. Depart at a time when your body is used to being awake and active.
• Don’t drink any alcohol before departure.
• Avoid any medication that may make you drowsy.
• Avoid peak departure times.
• Take regular breaks. Rest immediately when you feel signs of fatigue. Go for a short walk.
Avoid heat build-up in the car. Research has shown that high temperatures have the same effect as a blood alcohol level of 0.5.