By Jameel Ismail
Thousands of car accidents take place on our roads every year, of which many prove fatal. Human factors could be seen as the biggest contributor to road crashes and fatalities, accounting for more than 70% of contributing factors.
Is it not time then, to better our driving and become safer road users?
New Year resolution lists are filled with numerous “self improvement” strategies, but how often do we see “be a safer driver”?
And when one considers the carnage on South African roads, it begs the question: why are we overlooking this?
Consider this: every time you get behind the wheel of a car, you are operating a very dangerous piece of equipment. Bearing this in mind, as drivers, we have a huge responsibility to our passengers and other road users.
So whether you’ve just removed the “learner” sign from the rear window or you’ve been driving for a few years now, there is always room for improvement.
Every time you get behind the wheel of a car, you are operating a very dangerous piece of equipment
A good start for any driver looking to improve their driving skills is to take a defensive driving course.
There are a number of reputable companies offering defensive driving courses. Check out Fleetmax Africa, they specialise in driver training and their defensive driver’s course covers practical topics like “Hijack Prevention”, “Commentary driving”, “Your rights at a road block” and much more. The investment is minor considering the value crammed into these courses and some insurers may even discount your monthly premiums for getting certified.
As a defensive driver, you can avoid accidents and lower your risks behind the wheel, not to mention boost your confidence.
Here are some pointers to making your driving safer:
Stay alert. Be aware of your surroundings and of other vehicles. Distractions like your phone, your make-up or that cute guy in the convertible who stopped beside you, make it harder for you to identify possibly threats and hazards. Criminals often target unsuspecting or distracted drivers at robots or intersections where smash-and-grab type crimes have become rife.
Keep a safe following distance
A vehicle’s ability to stop is greatly reduced with speed. Keeping a safe following distance is by far one of the easiest to follow, yet most commonly broken rules of defensive driving. Keeping a safe following distance creates an escape route and gives you enough time to take evasive action. What is a safe following distance? At a minimum, during dry conditions, three seconds. Where visibility is low like in rain or fog, the time should be doubled.
Drivers who drive in a smooth manner are often better drivers, from acceleration and braking to lane changes and turning, concentrate on making your actions more fluid, being smoother on your vehicle will also have a positive impact on your vehicle’s wear and tear and fuel consumption.
Drive for others
Anticipate what other drivers or road users might do and make appropriate adjustments to your driving. An accident might not always be your fault, but identifying the errors and compensating for them might save you. Be considerate of others but look out for yourself. Never assume the actions of other drivers.
While that statement could certainly be contested, on public roads speed makes it harder to avoid an accident, giving you less reaction time and space to escape or bring your vehicle to a stop. Fatalities are drastically increased where speeding motorists are involved.
Keep your cool
Sure, it’s rude when someone takes your turn at a four-way stop, or when a mini bus taxi cuts right out in front of you without indicating, but keep your cool. Road rage or aggressive driving is more likely to cause severe injuries or accidents.
Saving lives on our roads begins with you. It is your responsibility as a road user to exercise safe and lawful behaviour to ensure the safety of you the driver, your passengers and other road users
When you are in the driver’s seat, you are in control. Keep both hands on the steering wheel, ensure that your mirrors and seat are adjusted correctly and that you are able to reach all the pedals comfortably.
Go the distance
Always ensure that you have more than enough fuel for your journey. Detours, road works and traffic can sometimes affect the distance you planned to travel. Check your vehicle’s tyre tread depth, wear and pressure and always service your vehicle regularly, as per your motor manufacturer’s recommendations.
As the driver, it is your responsibility to buckle up and make sure all your passengers do too. Wearing a seat belt or using a child seat can prevent serious injury or fatality in a crash and kids should be taught the importance of buckling up at a young age. Wearing your seat belt should not just be done to silence the annoying beep coming from your vehicle’s seatbelt warning system but rather a measure to save your life and the lives of your passengers.
Practise makes perfect
The best way to improve a skill is to practise and practise CORRECTLY. Being a ‘good driver’ certainly takes time and when you implement safe driving measures from the get-go, these measures become habit and the habit results in you becoming a better driver.
Saving lives on our roads begins with you. It is your responsibility as a road user to exercise safe and lawful behaviour to ensure the safety of you the driver, your passengers and other road users. So, let’s all get there safely!