The financial year has officially closed (for most of us) and almost everyone will head out onto the open road for a calm end to a busy year. You have done all the checks and are ready to hit the road, yet it will be important to take into account that you will be sharing the roads with more tourists, potentially not having taking as many precautions as you would have think.
Ford South Africa recently invited us to part-take in a driving-skills development day and rather than focusing on a glamorous excursion onto the track or the skidpan, the company rather made the wise choice to rather educate us on driver attitude and the impacts thereof.
Running the #YourRoadOurRoad campaign in partnership with MasterDrive SA, the focus was placed on our ever-growing immediate needs as drivers, causing more distractions. This is one of the main reasons why South Africa has a growing road fatality rate, even with significant investment from Government.
Cases of diseases and viruses like HIV / Aids have steadily declined during the last century, thanks to more education taking place on the matter and individuals therefore taking more precautions. The same can not be said for road fatalities as SA saw an increase of 70% during the same period.
SA and neighbouring countries now have more road fatalities than in 1998. This is mainly due to the invention of the cellphone, driver attitudes and careless driving.
Secondly, the question can be asked of whether you make use of a seatbelt when driving in an Uber or a taxi? Not adhering to the same rules as which you would have in your own car, will greatly contribute to rising injury and fatality statistics.
Here are 10 tips for driving safer and more efficient:
Tip 1: Wear seatbelts
This might seem like a simple tip, drained into our systems since birth, yet most of us don’t always do this .
Think about it; do you wear your seatbelt, when climbing into an Uber or any form of public transport for that matter?
It has been calculated that when a moving object of 80km/h abruptly comes to a stand-still, everything traveling from that object, will weigh 30 times its normal weight. We will not go into too much detail, but this should prove the case.
Tip 2: Adjust mirrors
Yet another tip, but one which makes absolute sense.
You only need to do this once in every car that you drive. Adjusting the side mirrors so that you can just see the side panels of the car, as well as your reverse-mirror so that you can see the tip of your left ear, should put you on the correct track.
With new cars carrying all sorts of driver aids, we also tend to lose “touch” of our basic driving skills. Remembering that there is something like a blind-spot or some cars without reverse mitigation, should stay at the top of your check-list.
Tip 3: Anticipate traffic (The 3-second rule)
Always keep an eye on what the traffic ahead, next to, and behind you are doing. You might focus, but others around you may not.
Always keep the 3-second rule to anticipate traffic. On dry roads, a safe following measure will be to see when the car ahead passes a landmark. Should you pass this more than 3 seconds later, you are regarded as a good citizen.
On wet and slippery roads, following distances increase to 6 seconds, even at slower speeds.
Tip 4: Avoid distractions
Yes, this is the biggest contributor to car accidents of late.
Focusing on that “important” text of phone call, or even food may not only get you caught in an accident, but also jail.
Even by law (1976 road legislation), eating in a car will hamper your focus and is therefore rendered illegal.
Tip 5: Even Bluetooth is not necessarily safe
During our safety exercises, we were tested on our abilities to try an keep focus, while being distracted. Even with an infotainment screen in front of the driver, the latest Apple CarPlay / Android Auto can cause distractions.
Tip 6: Save fuel
This is not necessarily safety related, but will help you on the open roads.
New cars with automatic gearboxes usually shift between 1 500 – 2 500 rpm. Driving an older, or manual car, drivers can save fuel by travelling at lower engine strains.
Positioning your bicycles behind the car, rather than on the roof, will also substantially reduce drag and therefore save fuel.
Lastly, idling the car for 3 minutes, uses as much fuel as travelling 1km at 50km/h. This might not sound like a lot, but can easily escalate when the car is standing still at a roadwork or roadblock station.
Tip 7: Use the vehicle momentum effectively
Like drag reduction methods and low rpm’s, using your vehicle momentum effectively will also help to reduce fuel usage.
When in stop-stand traffic, racing as soon as a gap of 5 meters appears, does not really help in prolonging your next fuel stop. Use to weight of your car to steadily and continuously move forward.
Not only will your passengers thank you, but also your bank account.
Tip 8: Check tyre pressures constantly
It is advised to regularly check the tyre pressures and age of the tyres. Even if there is enough thread left, rubber tends to harden or deteriorate as the years pass. A 4-year tyre change is usually the correct way to go, even if you don’t drive often.
Driving on long and warm roads will also increase tyre pressures (A lesson, I also learnt while travelling in the warm December months). Driving faster will therefore increase friction and expand the tyres even more.
Make sure to check tyre pressures at every fuel stop, when travelling far distances.
Tip 9: Remove unnecessary weight
No, we don’t mean your spare wheel or the mother-in-law!
Cars tend to be ‘kitted’ out in order to draw attention or potentially help with a 4×4 situation (yet, your last 4×4 excursion might have been a year ago).
More weight to a car, brings more pressure to all the components as well as affecting your brake distance.
Pack the car as light as possible. It may also help the fuel consumption.
Although each of these 9 tips are crucial, it is also important to remember that not everyone thinks the same. Reaction times differ and the adherence to rules are also not followed strictly by everyone.
To be a safe driver, will also mean that we will have to take the others around us into account.