According to the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), 14 050 people died on South Africa’s roads in 2017 and in many cases, it was small mistakes that lead to such tragedy.
While no one is the perfect driver, there are certain simple mistakes to take note in order to stay safe on the road.
“The accidents that lead to fatalities are all too often the result of what motorists consider to be ‘minor’ offences or oversights”, says Maanda Tshifularo, Head of Dialdirect Insurance. “If motorists across South Africa could take a critical look at their driving behaviour and make minor adjustments, we could save thousands of lives.”
Dialdirect highlights 10 common driving mistakes that could have dire consequences, as well as tips on how to address them:
- Not adjusting mirrors correctly. Side view and rear-view mirrors help you to make split second decisions. Ensure that they are adjusted for maximum visibility of vehicles behind you or next to you, reducing the size of your blind spot as much as possible. Invest in blind spot mirrors if your vehicle doesn’t come equipped with them or a blind spot warning system.
- Driving slowly in the fast lane. This causes frustration for vehicles behind you and could see other motorists resorting to passing you in the slower, inside lane, increasing the risk of an accident. Choose the lane most appropriate for your speed and be considerate by allowing other motorists to pass.
- Not using indicators. Indicators provide a very simple, yet very valuable way for others to predict and plan around your movements. It’s best to get into the habit of signalling even when there are no other motorists around, and making sure that you cancel the indicator after using it.
- Stopping without warning. If you suddenly spot an available parking bay, street where you need to turn or person that you need to pick up, avoid slamming on the brakes. First make sure that your move allows ample warning time for the vehicle behind you. If it doesn’t, be prepared to go around, even if it costs you valuable time or a golden parking spot.
- Leaving your high beams on. High beams or “brights” are great for illuminating the road, but can have a blinding effect on oncoming traffic. Always be considerate towards oncoming drivers and, if you are very uneasy about what’s ahead of you, rather reduce speed and flash the high beams briefly to look ahead.
- Bad seating position. Seats that are set too high or low, or too far forward or backwards pose a serious safety risk as it compromises visibility and control. Make sure that your seat is adjusted in such a way that it allows good all-round visibility, sufficient headroom, and easy, comfortable reach of all driver controls. You should be able to use controls like the steering wheel, gears, pedals, switches and emergency indicators to their full range of motion, and have a clear view, mirrors included, without having to lean or stretch.
- Using Daytime Running Lights at night. Many modern vehicles come equipped with DLRs, which are handy in making your vehicle more visible to oncoming traffic. They are, however, dimmer than normal lights and many vehicles tail lights don’t switch on when the DLRs are in use, so they are not suited for night time driving.
- Using headlights at night only. A common misconception is that headlights are only there to help drivers see at night, but they are also fundamental in helping drivers to be seen by others in low light conditions. Get into the habit of also using these lights in overcast, rainy and foggy conditions. Be extra careful with the latter, however, as using the high beam setting in foggy conditions generally illuminates the fog instead of the road, further reducing visibility.
- Speeding through a yellow light. Although yellow means “slow down”, too many drivers see it as a cue to “floor it” in an effort to cross before the light turns red – often leading to a side-on collision or “T-bone”. Rather slow down, stop and wait an extra minute or so. A couple of seconds gained isn’t worth risking your own or someone else’s life.
- Skipping routine vehicle checks. If an indicator isn’t working, tyre pressure is too low or defoggers don’t clear windshields like they should, it could lead to anything from a bumper bashing to loss of life. Make sure that your vehicle is frequently checked and serviced at the required intervals.
“The good news is that if each of us make small behavioural changes, we can all enjoy a safer journey,” concludes Tshifularo. “You can also download our free Driving App from the Play Store or iTunes App Store to actively monitor your driving and see how you can improve, and visit our YouTube channel for further driving tips.”