Road safety over Easter

An influx of traffic on the roads is common during the festive period. With the increase in traffic, however, comes the increased risk of road accidents. Ahead of the Easter period, Moneybags journalist Danielle Van Wyk, looks at a few ways drivers can exercise safe practices on the road.

Road accident statistics

“The recent 2015 / 2016 preliminary festive season report released by Transport Minister Dipuo Peters shows a staggering 14 percent increase in road deaths in South Africa, compared to a similar period the previous year.

With the Easter holidays approaching, these results serve as a critical lesson for road users around the country,” states Lizette Erasmus, head of insurance expertise at IntegriSure and Luc Fayolle, marketing manager at Michelin South Africa.

The report further offers a breakdown of the fatalities, as it highlighted that the majority of people who died were passengers at 38,3 %, followed by pedestrians at 34,9%. Drivers contributed 23, 9% of the fatalities and cyclists 2, 8%.

Among the top reasons for these accidents were: “Human factors (which) contributed the most to the crashes with many collisions occurring as a result of jay-walking, speed that was too high for circumstances, overtaking in the face of oncoming traffic, hit and run and driving under the influence of alcohol.

“The analysis further brought to the fore a very painful reality of the role played by un-roadworthy vehicles. Key to the vehicle factors that contributed to the crashes were tyre bursts, faulty brakes and smooth tyres while environmental factors included sharp bends, wet surfaces and poor visibility,” highlights Minister of Transport, Dipuo Peters.

“The results from the report have once again highlighted the critical issue of road safety in South Africa and the need for more people to practice vehicle maintenance in order to avoid becoming another statistic,” says Erasmus.

Another major attributor to road incidents is the prevalence of road rage. Arrive Alive weighs in: “Some researchers and experts state that the term road rage has become common vernacular to describe any displays of anger while driving, although such displays are also referred to as “angry or aggressive driving.” Angry or aggressive driving may range from mild displays of anger, such as following too closely on another driver’s bumper, to more serious forms of violence, such as physical assault and vehicular homicide.”

The road safety awareness organisation advises that drivers avoid falling into such situations by concentrating on driving, planning their journey, playing music to reduce stress, being courteous on the road, not retaliating and aggravating other drivers and a situation.

“If you are a victim of aggression take the registration number and report incident to the police,” states Arrive Alive.

Common driver mistakes

While there are definite dos and don’ts on the road, drivers are often guilty of making the same common mistakes that sadly lead to these accidents.

“The most common mistakes include: not stopping to rest and making sure you are physically fit to be behind the wheel of a car, especially on a long journey, for e.g. between provinces, which is a popular commute during festive periods.

“Not paying attention to the road signs, for example overtaking when it’s dangerous, maybe not buckling up, or not paying attention the actual traffic on the road. And then you also find when it’s a holiday season like this, people want to speed to get to their destination, they want to get there as quickly as possible, and that’s dangerous because like we always say get there late, rather than not at all,” remarks public relations manager for the Automobile Association (AA), Layton Beard.

Beard adds that car maintenance is also a contributor: “Your car might be fine if you’re driving in the city centre for a few months, but if you’re wanting to go on a long trip, your car needs to be ready for that kind of journey. People tend to think that because they drive short distances on a day to day basis the car will be ready for a long journey, and that’s not necessarily the case.”

Safety practices

It is always important to be vigilant while travelling on the road, but more so during busy periods, the following are a few tips for drivers, in staying safe on the roads this Easter:

-“Safety on the road begins with a simple home test to check that the vehicle’s headlights, indicators and taillights are in working order. Wipers should also be checked, as they are essential in ensuring visibility during bad weather.”

“If unsure, it is important that the vehicle is inspected at a specialist centre. Many centres offer free checks to encourage road safety, and a team of professionals will be able to ensure that the vehicle is entirely roadworthy before it begins its journey,” emphasises Federal-Mogul Middle East and Africa marketing director, Siya Khuzwayo.

-Make sure you have the following in your car: “Fully inflated spare wheel, wheel jack and spanner, two reflective triangles, jumper cables, a torch, a GPS, a bottle of water, snacks and a first aid kit,” advises Discovery Vitality.

-Always wear your seatbelt and check that everyone else in the vehicle has theirs on too, “Also make sure the little ones are secure in their car seats.  Safety belts are 99% effective in preventing passengers from being ejected from the vehicle in an accident. Seatbelts prevent the driver and passengers being thrown through the windscreen or smashed into the dashboard should an accident occur,” reiterates Imperial Auto.

-Beard agrees and adds that where possible it is a big help to ensure that ‘kids are kept occupied in the vehicle, so as not to distract the driver.

-“Stopping off, going to the bathroom, stretching your legs or getting a glass of water, is also a good idea. To just allow yourself time to take a bit of a break and rest,” explains Beard.

-One of the biggest warnings stem from issues around drunk driving. The AA has a motto that states: “Drink or drive. If you are going to drive, don’t drink. If you are choosing to drink, don’t drive. The AA has a designated driver service, where they will come and collect you from wherever you are and take you home in your own vehicle,” adds Beard.

-It would in light of this be wise to, “Join a roadside assistance service. Not only will it provide support in the event of electrical and mechanical breakdowns, but some packages also include emergency medical rescues,” advises Auto Mart.

-Don’t have access to your cellphone while driving. “Even if you are using a hands-free device, try to avoid taking or making calls. Even the smallest distraction from the road can prevent you from making quick, life-saving choices to avoid a potential accident,” states Imperial Auto.

-Obey the rules of the road and be aware of the drivers around you, highlights Beard.

How can you assist?

Besides observing certain safety practices, there are other ways you can assist. One such way is by donating blood.

“Roads are extremely busy during the Easter period as its school holidays and many people decide to take a short vacation.  It is true that road accidents increase during this period, but we also see a decrease in blood donations as donors tend to forget to donate blood before going on holiday.  This is problematic to the WP Blood Transfusion Service, as the winter months are almost upon us and if we enter winter with a low blood supply, it usually stays like that until about October,” says Marlize van der Merwe, Western Province Blood Transfusion services (WPBTS) corporate public relations officer.

The service needs to maintain a collection of 700 units of blood per day to fulfil the demand of the Western Cape hospitals.

“This effectively means that 700 people have to donate blood every day and it will be our aim to ensure that this is maintained throughout the Easter period,” remarks van der Merwe.

Van der Merwe calls on more people to donate blood:“WPBTS also needs to increase its donor base, as less than 1.2% of the Western Cape population donates blood.  This is quite a frightening statistic.”

Donating blood is fairly easy and with one donation, you can save at least three lives and it’s easy to find a way to donate as there are mobile blood donation units that go out daily to various communities.

The basic donor criteria requires one to be between the ages of 16 to 65, weigh more than 50kg, be medically healthy and lead a safe lifestyle.

“It is also important to eat a substantial meal three to four hours before blood donation and increase your fluid intake on the day,” says van der Merwe.

The blood group most commonly used in most cases of emergency is the O-blood group.  This group is known as the universal donor, as the O group can be transfused to any other blood group.

With about three weeks left to Easter, let us commit to making the journey an enjoyable one by exercising caution on the roads this season, because as the common saying goes, ‘it is always better to be safe than sorry.’