Picture: Deva Darshan/ Pexels.

A road trip is more than packing the car with your luggage and filling up the tank with fuel ahead of your adventure. Dialdirect shares some tips on how to make your next road trip safe: 

Make a checklist

  • Before you head to your next destination, make sure to check your vehicle’s lights, windows and wipers, wheels and tyres, brakes, suspension, battery, belts and chains, cooling system, filters and fluids, safety and warning equipment and child car seats.

On the road 

  • Make sure that your load is within your vehicle’s capabilities and that it is properly secured. Tie a red piece of cloth to the ends of any object that protrudes past your vehicle’s edges. All trailers are required to have a safety chain, which helps in the event of tow bar failure.
  • Plan your trip carefully and use the technology at your disposal to avoid problem areas.
  • Always keep a safe, 2 to 3 second following distance.
  • Don’t speed. According to the World Health Organization, you could save your own or someone else’s life with just a 10 km/h decrease in speed. This small change reduces fatalities by almost 40%.
  • Always stop at a red traffic light and stop sign. Don’t overestimate your luck, timing ability or observation skills.
  • Obey the line. Even with lines permitting overtaking, always make double sure that it’s safe to do so.
  • Don’t drink and drive. SA’s legal limit is a breath alcohol content of 0.24mg per 1000ml, or a blood alcohol limit of 0.05g per 100ml. As a rule of thumb, two drinks in one hour will put you over the limit. Bear in mind that you could still be over the limit the morning after. Alternate the alcoholic drinks you do have with soft drinks or water. If you’ve been drinking, do not take a chance and rather call a taxi.
  • Always look twice. Be especially mindful of motorcycles and vehicles without the necessary lights or indicators, or drivers who forgot to turn their indicators off.
  • Focus. Avoid distractions like eating, drinking, minding children or using your cellphone while driving.
  • Choose the correct lane for the speed that you’re travelling at.
  • Think ahead by keeping a constant eye on the vehicles in front of you.
  • Plan your turns, as well as your highway entrances and exits, well in advance to ensure that you get into the correct lane early enough.
  • Bear other drivers in mind. They also need to plan for your vehicle’s movements, so be sure to indicate clearly and on time. 
  • Always keep an eye out for pedestrians and switch your vehicle’s headlights to the brightest setting wherever possible.
  • Help your fellow road users. Report faulty traffic lights, damage to roads, obstructions and bad driver behaviour hotspots to the authorities.

How to handle fatigue 

  • Rest. Motorists should get at least 7 hours of sleep before a long-distance trip. They should avoid travelling during their body’s downtime, which is between 2 am and 6 am.
  • Plan breaks into your trip and never when you’re tired. Avoid sugary or fatty snacks, energy drinks and caffeine to keep you going. Drink water, eat healthy foods and take breaks to recharge the mind, body and soul. 

Dealing with bikes and heavy motor vehicles 

  • Always keep a special lookout for bikes and heavy vehicles. If you’re behind a truck and you can’t see the mirrors, then the driver can’t see you.
  • A truck with a trailer needs two lanes to turn.
  • Heavy vehicles need a long distance to stop, so avoid cutting in front of them.

 What to do when your car breaks down or if you are involved in an accident 

  • Switch on your hazard lights and, if possible and legal, pull into the emergency lane.
  • Make sure that your vehicle remains visible. Make use of your emergency triangle.
  • If you get stuck in a dangerous spot, get out of your vehicle when it is safe to do so and walk carefully to the side of the road. Ideally, you should remain in your car with the doors locked.
  • Call your insurer for assistance.