Stay alive on the roads this festive season

Stay alive on the roads this festive season

As the year draws to an end, many of us have begun plotting which way we’ll be heading for the holidays and making appropriate travel arrangements.

Some will journey back to their native provinces, others will be guests to the natives, and the rest will remain put, bound by work or other constraints. Those who find themselves in Johannesburg will look forward to congestion-free roads — a treat that comes around only once a year.

For the travellers (myself included), your options are land, water and air. And if you are looking at the first as your way of travel, there are some key things to consider before setting off along a national road.

It’s important to ensure your car is roadworthy: have it inspected by an authorised agent before embarking on the trip.

There are other things to take into account, too, considering that more than 1700 people died on our roads during the festive period in 2016, according to Road Traffic Management Corporation spokesman Simon Zwane.

Zwane says the biggest contributing factors to crashes and fatalities are drinking and driving, fatigue, speeding, and unroadworthy vehicles — particularly public transport vehicles.

“We have a very extensive plan to address drunk driving this festive season. [This includes] testing that will be done regularly on the roads,” says Zwane.

“Drinking and driving is a criminal offence, you get arrested immediately [and] you will have a criminal record.”

Some motorists may not think much of breaking the speed limit, but this, too, will not go unpunished, as it puts you and your passengers, as well as other motorists, in danger.

“If you get caught driving over 160km/h it’s not a traffic fine, it’s immediate arrest. There’s a no-nonsense approach to road offences during the festive season,” Zwane adds.

Motorists aren’t the only source of the problem when it comes to road fatalities; in fact, drunk pedestrians account for the majority of fatalities, says Zwane.

We asked Layton Beard of the Automobile Association for general tips and things to consider when travelling at this time of the year. Top of his list is obeying the rules of the road. Beard advises that you plan your route carefully, assessing weather and road conditions. This will allow you to fit in an overnight stay if you need it.

He warns against being distracted while driving, whether by talking on the phone or texting, or interacting with passengers in the back seat. “All are extremely dangerous, as they take your focus away from the road.”

Just as deadly are bald or worn tyres. Motorists should check their tyres for wear and the correct inflation. Lastly, and probably the most obvious on his to-do list, is to always wear a seatbelt. Also ensure that all passengers — including children — are properly buckled up. – Gugu Masuku