No one likes to think about such things, but the risk of you having a car accident during the holiday season is much higher. We think of December as a time of joy, filled with family, friends and happiness, and it is, but it’s also a time when drivers are most likely to be involved in a car accident. The combination of more drivers on the roads, more people taking long trips, more shouting kids in the back and more alcohol (for the adults, not the kids!) is a deadly one. This year we want to help you prevent this. We want you to have a happy and safe holiday season, which means driving carefully.
The Risks of a Car Accident in December – the Stats
Why are we so intent on giving you road safety tips specifically for this time of year? Because according to the official Ministry of transport report, a massive 1,465 people lost their lives during the holiday season of 2012/13, and 1,357 people died on the road in a very short one and a half month period between December 2013 and January 2014). An average of around 5,000 people die on roads each year, which means that a shocking 30% (+/-) of all these deaths happen during the holiday period.
So what can you do to keep yourself safe? That’s what we’re here to answer. We’ve got our top safety tips to help keep you safe this festive season. Here’s what you need to know:
1. Check Your Vehicle BEFORE Leaving to Prevent a Car Accident
First on our list is simple prevention: check your vehicle before leaving home to make sure it’s in good working order. This includes checking your tyres for bald patches and tyre pressure (not too much, not too little), checking under the hood for oil and water levels as well as windscreen washer fluid (you can’t drive if you can’t see), the windscreen wipers themselves (shouldn’t be too dry) and checking under the car for any leaks (you can find out more about this by checking out How to Plan a Great Road Trip).
2. Be Prepared in Case There is an Emergency
Car accidents do happen, as do break downs and even simply getting lost, so ensure that your car is equipped with the necessary items to help you in case of an emergency. You should be carrying basic tools (including those necessary to change a tyre), as well as a small first aid kit, and a reflective vest and reflective triangle to alert others that you’ve stopped on the road. It’s not a bad idea to have a couple of bottles of water and some protein bars as well, just in case you get stuck. A spare external battery charger for your phone is also welcome, seeing as how you never know what might happen – so be prepared!
Warning, the following video contains graphic and stressful images:
3. No Drinking and Driving
This should go without saying, and we know you’ve heard it before, but alcohol and driving do NOT mix. If you’re planning on having a drink, then don’t plan on driving, it’s really that simple. The current law in South Africa states that you can have a blood alcohol level of 0.05%, which is roughly one drink. If you’re unsure then invest in a cheap pocket breathalyzer to check. But really, the easiest (and safest thing) to do if you don’t want to have a car accident is not to drink at all. If you really have to have those drinks, then plan ahead: decide how many you’re going to have, without going over board, and stop drinking about 2 hours before you plan to leave, or at minimum an hour if you’re not drinking too much. Shortly after you’ve had your last drink, enjoy a nice coffee and relax for another hour or two till you’ve sobered up. The best policy though would be to let someone else drive, or take a taxi – those extra few Rands might save you thousands in repairs or worse, hospital bills.
4. Bad Weather Can be Deadly
December weather can be unpredictable, and heavy rains and storms make for dangerous driving conditions. The cause of a car accident can be as simple as a wet road or impaired vision. For this reason you should always check the weather before leaving on a long trip, and if at all possible avoid driving in heavy rain or storms. Need to check the weather on the go? Then check out the Yahoo! Weather app (for both Android and Apple), which includes a radar picture so you can judge where bad weather is and how to avoid it. If you did get stuck in a ‘surprise’ rain shower, then try to pull in to the nearest coffee shop along the way and just enjoy some quiet family or alone time. Those couple of minutes will let you freshen up and you’ll most probably make up the ‘lost’ time anyway because you’ll be able to drive a bit faster once the rain has cleared. Two additional points to keeping safe whilst driving in the rain are (1) to make sure your windscreen wipers aren’t dry (impaired vision = increased chances of accidents) and (2) to increase the space between you and the driver in front of you, in addition to driving 10 – 20 kilometres per hour slower.
5. Don’t drive if not well rested!
We all know about the dangers of drinking and driving, but sleep deprived driving can be just as bad. A British study found that being awake for eighteen hours was the equivalent of having a blood alcohol count of 0.05% (the legal limit in South Africa). Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to avoid driving when you’re fatigued. Plan long trips with overnight stops, it’s worth paying a hotel bill for one night to keep you safe on the road and you might even discover new and fun places. And if you get tired, just stop over for a nap! A quick nap might be the difference between getting home safely or ending up in a ditch. Remember though, always stop somewhere safe, where your car can be seen clearly by other drivers and where you aren’t at risk from crime.
6. Drive Sensibly
Again, you already know this, but it’s worth repeating. You should always drive safely when you’re on the road, keeping to speed limits, driving defensively rather than aggressively, changing lanes only when necessary, and keeping to the rules of the road. But during the holidays, when you might be under time pressure to get somewhere, and with screaming kids in the back of the car, this can be easy to forget. Add to that the frustrations of so many other drivers being out on the roads and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Remember that you are in control of your vehicle, and by making good driving decisions you’re quite simply less likely to have a car accident. Based on numerous research done by the carinfo.co.za team, jumping lanes and cutting in before other drivers (hey, it was for research’s sake), only saves you 3-4 minutes on an average drive of 40 minutes. So imagine how much of a fool you’ll feel if after all that jumping lanes and cutting in front of others that old lady ends up right behind you at the traffic light at the entrance to the city. Check out our tips for driving safely for more.
7. Tips for rental cars
Renting a car can be a wise move, especially if it’s a long drive, but it’s important to make sure that you rent from a good car rental company, and that you opt in for the insurance cover that the rental company offers (take note that the insurance is usually a default and that the insurance they offer is an extra part of the default insurance – so be sure to ask). And remember to familiarise yourself with the car before driving. Check out all the switches and buttons and make sure you know where everything is before setting off.
8. Get Insurance!
Finally, get yourself some good car insurance. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: accidents happen. Even if you’re careful and even if you prepare, you just can’t control everything. It might not even be your fault, but in the end, that may not matter. A solid car insurance policy will make sure that if you are in a car accident your damages (and those of the other party if applicable) will be covered, including medical costs. For some people this can really mean the difference between being able to get another vehicle or being car-less, or paying the medical bills or not. So it’s a very important step. There are plenty of good car insurance options out there, and a small monthly premium is more than worth the peace of mind you’ll get from being covered. You can use the below form to get at least one quote if you like (fair disclosure: we get a small fee if you get insurance, but we also get a warm fuzzy feeling for making someone safer).
Don’t Be a Statistic this Season
The holiday season should be a time of joy and happiness, so follow our tips and don’t become a statistic. To do this, just follow the above tips, and you should be fine.
Don’t forget to forward this to a friend (see below share buttons) so that they too can stay safe. Drive safely, and happy holidays!
Main Subject: car accident
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