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Staying safe behind the wheel


Between South Africans heading north or south on holiday and tourists arriving in the country to enjoy the sights, the one thing you can count on during the holidays is more congestion on the roads. Here’s a look at five ways to stay safe behind the wheel.

1. Buckle up
The National Road Traffic Act declares that “… no adult shall occupy a seat in a motor vehicle operated on a public road which is fitted with a seatbelt unless such person wears such seatbelt.” The fact that it’s the law is one excellent reason to wear a seatbelt. Here’s another: Research has shown that buckling up before you hit the road reduces your chance of death or serious injury should you have an accident by as much as 75%. And, if you’re planning to take your grandchildren in the car with you, remember that the law regarding children has changed, making it a legal requirement for all children under the age of three to be strapped into an approved safety seat. What’s more, it’s important to be aware that as the driver, you are legally responsible for any child younger than 14 who travels in your vehicle without a safety belt.

2. Keep healthy
You may be wondering what the state of your health has to do with staying safe on the roads. It’s simple: Driving requires a certain amount of strength and flexibility – think about having to swivel round in your seat to check your blind spot or while you’re reversing into a parking space – and your reflexes need to be sharp to enable you to react quickly to sudden changes on the road. Regular exercise will help you stay on top of your health and keep your body in good working order, but it’s also important as you get older to schedule regular eye and hearing tests, as poor eyesight and hearing can increase your risk of having an accident or injuring another motorist, cyclist or pedestrian.

3. Check your meds
On a related note, it’s important before you start any new medication to chat to your doctor about how it may impact your ability to drive. Certain medications can cause drowsiness or even impede your reaction time, so make sure you have all the facts before you get behind the wheel.

4. Avoid poor driving conditions
Driving can be stressful at the best of times, and even more so when the weather is bad or you’re trying to navigate the glare created by headlights from oncoming traffic at night. The good news is that Uber is available 24/7 to drive you to and from any destination in and around your city, so next time it’s pouring with rain, or you’re invited to an evening event, pick up your phone and hail a driver near you.

5. Stash your cellphone
It can be tempting when you pull up at a set of traffic lights or stop street to reach for your phone to send a quick WhatsApp message or voice note to a friend or family member. Aside from the fact that it’s illegal, the International Transport Forum’s Road Safety Annual Report also determined that roughly 25% of all road accidents in South Africa (incidentally, we also have one of the highest accident rates in the world) are caused by drivers using their phones.