The best defensive driving course is one taken in your own car, because that’s the one you drive every day.
Johannesburg – Road safety, particularly for women and children, is all about awareness and defensive driving.

Try to avoid getting into trouble, rather than have to get out of it, was the theme of a road-safety event at Waterkloof Golf Estate last week organised by Peggie Mars, founder of Wheel Well, which advocates for road safety for children, to raise awareness for car seats for children as well as to raise funds for the seats.

South African legislation prescribes that children under the age of three should be in specialised seats; Mars says children should be in car seats until they're 1.4 metres tall.

"But 80 percent of South African children go to school on public transport,” she said, "and eight of them, on average, are killed on SA roads each day.”

Mars said she was still fighting with the government to ensure that it paid for scholar transport so children didn’t have to go to school in taxis.

Defensive driving

But for those mothers who take their children to and from school, a defensive driving course is the next step in road safety.

“And you need to think of taking your children along with you,” advised racing driver Clare Vale, chairperson of the Women in Road Safety Organisation. “You’ll sleep better at night.”

She said going on such a course had been an eye-opener because she was made aware of things she didn't know she was doing wrong.

“The best defensive driving course is one taken in your own car, because that’s the one you drive every day,” she said. “And it’s important to know the basics of looking after your car – such as checking oil, water and tyres.

“If your steering wheel is shuddering when you drive then you need to take it in for a check; you might have broken something driving over a pothole.”

Peggie Mars is a road-safety activist dedicated to the safety of children. File photo: Deon van der Walt

Anti-hijack tips

Eugene Herbert, managing director of corporate advanced driver training company Master Drive, shared three tips to keep safe and avoiding being hijacked.

First, he said, be observant. People who’ve been hijacked often say the hijacker ‘came out of nowhere’.

Identify a landmark such as a church or shop within a radius of one kilometre from your home, as a reminder to be aware of your surroundings as you approach home.

Ask your children to keep an eye out for strangers on the last stretch, so they can identify people who don’t belong.

Secondly, check your rear view mirror every 10 seconds from the one-kilometre mark.

“If there's a strange car following you in a suburban setting, you’ll spot it,” Herbert said. “Have a plan as to where you can drive if you notice somebody following you, somewhere you know is safe.”

And thirdly, he said, don’t turn directly into your driveway – park briefly across it in the street, so that if somebody ‘comes out of nowhere’, you can hit the accelerator and get away without having to reverse.

Pretoria News

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