Four ‘unorthodox’ tips to stay alive as you drive home from the holidays
If ever there was an irreplaceable souvenir that motoring journalism has gifted me, it’s an impressive tally, perhaps now in its millions, of kilometres racked up in a 15-year stint roving on all manner of SA roads - from the smooth and bad asphalt within urban and provincial borders to soul-sapping farm roads and on national freeways. Add foreign soil too while operating vehicles with the steering wheel on the wrong side.
In all honesty, driving safely is easy if you are committed. Yet in spite of much having been said and done by numerous road safety awareness campaigns, from alcohol and illegal substance-free driving, to exercising patience, obeying all rules of the road and more, the perils and the road death toll continues to be stubbornly high.
Here are four tips on how to be a safer driver as you drive home from the holidays.
Training and maintaining a watchful eye over every aspect of your driving is the best safety mechanism you can equip yourself with. It covers a lot of areas in a few blinks. A vigilant attitude can, and will, prompt drivers to become naturally conscious and predictive risk-assessors, from the simple checking of underinflated tyres, the wearing of seat belts to the monitoring of your travels two-to-three cars ahead, and anticipation of moves by other road users.
Relax and have a journey plan
Consider distance and traffic patterns, and use traffic monitoring navigational apps. Have a good night’s rest, a nutritious “take-off” breakfast and plot relaxed and logical departure and arrival times on longer journeys.
Shorter distances of no more than 100km generally don’t warrant long stops, but extended drives of 300km or longer definitely require body breaks at two-hour intervals.
The rewards of a well-planned and executed journey are reduced fatigue and anxiety which are listed among the top causes of accidents.
Consider taking the road less travelled
If heavy holiday traffic is the guide, then SA citizens seldom take the road less travelled. A fear of mechanical breakdowns or running out of fuel in remote places, poor road conditions and a general scarcity of road support nearby have been mentioned as deterrents.
Avoiding congestion on highways during peak season, better vistas and more delicious food from quaint eateries on the fringes have always been a persuasion to use back roads. And there are fewer cars on the roads.
Drive like an artist
The world is a canvas on which road engineers have long carved their masterpieces. Absorb the beauty and art of a free-flowing drive and soon enough, you and your passengers will begin to appreciate and enjoy the unhurried progress as you thread the car smoothly between lanes, using well-timed and gentle throttle and brake inputs that already form a big part of the defensive driving habit.
The profound effect on your mood as you relax means you are more alert to your surroundings, traffic-fine free and ultimately, safe.