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Updated 27 March 2014

Hit the road - safely

Do these twelve things and you stand a good chance of not becoming one of the many accident statistics on the roads.

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Motor vehicle accidents claim thousands of lives every year. Some of these accidents are simply unavoidable, such as when a tree trunk falls on your car on the highway, or a runaway truck hits you while you are sitting in peak hour traffic.

But do these twelve things and you have a high chance of not becoming one of the many accident statistics on the roads.

Never skimp on tyres. Have your tyres checked regularly. When you are driving, your only contact with the road is more or less the size of four handpalms. If they have no tread on them, add some rain and it could be like trying to dance on a slippery bathroom floor.

Cross-check at traffic lights. Don’t assume that everyone else will stop at red traffic lights. Get into a habit of looking left and right before driving when the light turns green.

Beware the distraction in your midst. A screaming child, a pet running amok or even something such as a bee in the car, can distract you for that crucial second. Stop if you can and sort it out, before driving further. In the long run, a bee sting or cat vomit in the car can be sorted out much more easily than multiple head injuries or a broken limb.

Speed indeed kills. When you are travelling at high speed, it reduces your available reaction time before a collision or some other disaster. It also increases the impact if you should be involved in an accident. The faster you drive, the more dangerous it is. Pure and simple.

Don’t drink and drive. Make this a rule for which there are no exceptions. It is not only your life you put at risk, but also that of other innocent road users, who could be killed as a result of your unwillingness to admit that you are too drunk to drive.

Keep your distance. A decent following distance has prevented many accidents. Ask yourself if you would be able to stop if the car in front of you braked sharply. This is not only important for long distance driving, but also for morning traffic.

Check brakes and shocks. If these are in good order, they could save your life in a crisis situation, such as when you have to swerve out to avoid an oncoming truck. Don’t skimp on these. They should be a priority in your life and should be viewed as being as important as essential medication. Same goes for regular services on your car.

Steer clear of road rage incidents. If you think someone is deliberately trying to harass you, or to provoke some reaction by driving aggressively or shouting or using hand signs, ignore them. They could have a gun or some other weapon in the car. Turn off, let them pass, drive to the nearest police station, stare fixedly ahead and drive on or do whatever you need to in order to get away. Stop passengers from engaging with road hogs. Do not stop on a deserted road and do not react aggressively – you could pay for it with your life.

Fill up please. Having no petrol in the car is something that can happen so easily to anyone. Be vigilant and check that it never gets to the point where the red light stops flashing and just shines brightly. You don’t know who might be in the car behind you offering assistance. Horror movies have started in this way.

Join the AA and charge up your cellphone. The car grinds to a halt on a dark deserted road just the other side of Willowmore. If you have a cellphone and can contact the AA, this could save your life. Who knows what lurks in the farmhouse over the hill?

Wear your seatbelt. The human body is simply not made to deal with slamming into anything solid at 60km/h or more. The seatbelt restrains you and stops you from hitting anything in front of you or falling out of the car if it should roll. Wearing a seatbelt is simply non-negotiable. If your car moves, you should be strapped in.

Check water and oil regularly. Do this on a fixed date, such as the first of the month, so you won’t forget for weeks on end. Oil lubricates the engine and water helps keep the temperature down. Serious damage can be done to your engine if either the water or the oil runs out.

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated July 2011)

 
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