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With a wealth of spectacular long-distance destinations in South Africa, staying safe on the road is essential for you and your family. A ‘long distance’ trip is generally a trip in excess of 300 km, or more than three hours. So, if you are one of the lucky one’s travelling this Easter period, have a look at our ten driving that will help you this holiday season.
1. Plan ahead
Know exactly where you will be going. This will ensure your drive is relaxing and enjoyable. Plan your route, and the roads you are going to take, using GPS or Google Maps. Also know where you will be able to stop for fuel, food, ablutions and safe resting spots along the way. Ensure the route you are planning to take is driveable and in good condition.
For example, as a regular Kruger Park visitor, I am a member of several Kruger Park groups on Facebook. People often post to avoid certain roads or entrance gates to Kruger as there is a protest in the area, that certain roads have been blockaded, that the potholes around Lydenburg pose a serious risk when travelling after dark, or that there are stop-and-goes on N4 between Malelane and Komatipoort which can add an hour onto your travelling time.
No matter where in the country you are travelling to, it cannot harm to find a Facebook group of your destination and ask people a few days before you leave if anyone else has travelled to there recently and what the conditions of the roads are.
You should also look at the weather reports for the areas you will be driving, so you know what to expect on the road. If you see that heavy rainfall and mist is expected, it may be worth leaving earlier so you can drive slower. It also gives you time to check that your windscreen wipers and fog lights are working sufficiently.
For added safety, stay in touch with someone at your destination throughout your journey, so they know where you are always. We all have that neurotic family member, or wife’s mom, who want us to download a real-time tracking app on our mobile phones. I found one such app called Life360, which gave my mom-in-law the ability to track our car as we travelled between Jhb and the Eastern Cape. I regretted it soon after, as she immediately called my wife on her phone to complain that she had seen on her app that I momentarily hit 132Km/h in a 120Km/h zone. She refused to believe that I was just overtaking a truck, and that I am a responsible husband and father, and that her grandkids were in safe hands. “I told you, you should never have married that boy” she said, before hanging up. Nonetheless, I still advocate that someone should be always aware of your location, just not necessarily your mother-in-law.
2. Sleep the night before you leave
Fatigue on the open road is dangerous and is the second most common cause of accidents on national roads. Drunk driving is the leading cause. Always ensure that you get a good night’s rest before you leave. If you are leaving early in the morning, ensure you go to bed earlier than usual to get enough sleep before your journey. Do not consume alcohol or any other intoxicants the day before you leave.
3.Take a break every two hours or 200 km
Taking a break from driving every two hours or 200 km is recommended for a long- distance trip. Stop to fill up, grab a bite to eat, use the bathroom or simply to stretch your legs. Taking a break will give you a boost until the next stop.
I am so used to the big Shell Ultra-City’s and Engen 1Stop’s along the N3 to Durban and N1 to Cape Town, that I assumed when I travelled between Bloemfontein and East London. Well, I was wrong. Every garage along that route has coin operated turnstiles to enter the bathrooms. If you know this advance, you keep a stack of R2 coins in your car and think nothing of it. If you do not know it, it turns into a mini crisis when family members are desperate for the bathroom, and all you have on you is a credit card, and the garage staff simply refuse to help.
Once again, planning ahead and knowing what you will find on the way is key.
4. Share the drive
If you can share the driving with someone else, you will be less likely to get tired behind the wheel. It is recommended that you do not drive more than a total of ten hours in one day. No matter what you secretly think of your wife’s driving skill, or refusal to overtake trucks, sharing the driving is still the safer option.
5. Allow ample travel time
You are in holiday mode, so what is the point of rushing? Plan your trip properly and allow plenty of time for the drive as well as rest stops and refuelling. Also factor in unforeseen delays such as roadblocks, road works and maybe weather conditions.
Time lost at a roadblock should not be made up by driving faster and recklessly thereafter. My grandfather used to joke that he never understood the point of Formula 1 racing. He used to say, why don’t they just start the race an hour earlier and then they would not have to drive so fast?
In real life, I completely agree. Leave earlier and anticipate a 30 min delay somewhere on the trip. You will also enjoy a more relaxing drive if you do not need to rush to your destination.
6. Dress comfortably in the car
Wear comfortable clothes and shoes especially and take a pillow if your back tends to ache when you are behind the wheel for an extended period of time.
Be sure to apply sunblock before you leave and re-apply every two hours. Driving during the day means your arms or legs are exposed to direct sunlight for long periods of time, and as much as you may not feel the sun on your skin through the windows, especially if they are tinted, you still run the risk of sunburn.
7. Do not rely solely on cruise control
Cruise control can make a long trip a lot more bearable, although lack of driver involvement may lead to laziness and a loss of concentration behind the wheel. If you have cruise control, use it for short periods only.
8. Eat light and stay hydrated
Heavy meals or fast food are a bad idea when you are travelling and the only toilet within a 100kms has a coin-operated turnstile and you do not have any cash on you (Yes, I’m stilled scarred from that). Not only that, but they will leave you feeling bloated and uncomfortable.
Eat snacks and small portions of healthy food at regular intervals. Drink water to keep you hydrated. Energy drinks should be consumed sparingly as overseas research indicates a correlation between reckless driving and excessive energy drink consumption.
9. Fresh air is a must
Even though your car no doubt has air conditioning, some fresh air is essential to keep you alert. Open the windows intermittently to let fresh air into the car.
10. Obey the rules of the road
Driving requires your full attention, especially so when driving long distances. Do not be distracted by cell phones, rowdy children in the backseat or eating while you are driving. Importantly, obey the speed limit, do not overtake dangerously and ensure everyone in the car is buckled up properly.
Finally, be courteous and considerate to other drivers and enjoy the trip.
Wishing you a good and safe long weekend!
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