We’ve probably all been involved in, or witnessed, some pretty dangerous situations on the road. They're almost unavoidable at times, particularly the most obvious dangers such as hijackings, drunken driving, road rage and distracted driving. We're all well-versed in the less-than-ideal South African road statistics, and we know the leading causes of accidents and collisions...
But what about all the other factors motorists don’t always take into account? What about the dangers we're not even aware of?
We put together several hazardous situations which don’t get as much attention as they should, and how to avoid or handle them when the time comes.
Children figure things out for themselves by watching their parents, and it won’t be long before a child learns out how to use a safety belt, or unbuckle their own car seat. So, you’re cruising down the highway, probably listening to the Frozen soundtrack or something, and when you look up into the rearview mirror you find your 3-year old jumping around on the back seat.
Not only is this incredibly dangerous for the child, and completely illegal, but it’s very distracting for the driver as well. This is where the real danger comes in.
FURTHER READING: Child Seats: Are You Breaking The Law?
Experienced parents already possess a level of patience that few could possibly fathom. This is key, for just as it is in the event of any other emergency, you have to remain calm. Don’t overreact or start yelling, or you risk losing focus on the road. You can’t exactly hit the brakes either, not with an unsecured child hopping about.
Best solution? Calmly pull over to the side of the road and secure your child back into the car seat, maybe with a stern warning not to play with seatbelts. It’s illegal, it’s dangerous and it’s not allowed. That’s final. If you have to get out of the car for this, of course, do it from the curb side. Don’t stand near the road with your door open, or you’re at great risk of getting hit by a passing car.
And then the Frozen soundtrack has won, and we just can't have that at all.
This terrifying scenario plays out all the time on our highways. It’s one of the single most dangerous emergency situations you could ever encounter. You’re travelling along and suddenly you hear a loud boom! One of your tyres has just blown out.
According to experts, most blowouts like these happen when driving on underinflated tyres at high speeds. It’s important to ensure that your tyres are inflated correctly, as well as keeping a look out for debris in the road which could damage your tyres.
FURTHER READING: When Should You Replace Your Tyres?
Best case scenario, it feels like you’ve hit a speed bump a little too fast. If one of your front tyres has gone out, the vehicle will pull sharply to the left or the right.
Worst case scenario, at high speed and with such a sudden loss of control, panic ensues. If you hit the brakes at all, or make any sudden movements on the wheel, the car will spin out. When a car spins on the highway, it often leaves the road. When that happens, it often flips over.
When a blowout happens, what you need to do is the following:
When blowouts happen at extremely high speeds, unfortunately, the possibility of survival is pretty low. There isn’t much a driver can do in such a situation, except hope that the car ends up somewhere off the road and not in the oncoming traffic lane.
It’s a harrowing reminder to drive at a manageable speed at all times.
Nobody enjoys going outside when it looks like the end-times out there. It’s cold, it’s wet, it’s miserable and above all, it’s dangerous. There are three major problems when it comes to driving in bad weather. These are:
When it hasn’t rained for some time, oil and grease accumulates on the surface of the road. During the first rains in a long while, these slippery substances can spread across the road surface.
Driving in any sort of hail, thundershowers or flash flooding is always an incredibly bad idea, and best avoided as far as possible (many people elect to wait out heavy storms before taking to the road), but it is precisely because the aforementioned situation is so seldom thought or spoken-about that drivers need to exercise extra caution after the passing of the first rains.
Snow and ice on the road presents a whole new level of danger, as do gale-force winds and heavy fog.
It helps to be aware of weather forecasts in your area, and plan your trips accordingly. Stay tuned in to the local radio for news on areas prone to flash flooding when the rain proves relentless, for as the name suggests, these floods can come out of nowhere.
FURTHER READING: What To Do If You’re Caught Driving In a Flash Flood
In the past, we’ve spoken a little bit about how to drive and survive in rain, savage storms, flash flooding and snow. Another factor which has to be taken into account is, of course, the trucks on the road.
Rain, sleet, wind or snow, these guys have a job to do, and no matter the bad weather, they have to be out on the roads. Regardless of how experienced the driver of the truck may be, trucks just can’t slow down or be steered as easily as normal little cars, and so it's always better to give these behemoths of the road a wide berth, particularly during bad weather.
There’s always that one person at a party that ruins it for everybody. In South Africa, that person is the drunk driver, the reckless driver, the lawless driver, the arrogant driver, the distracted driver and the impatient driver. Don’t feel bad – we’ve all fallen into one of these categories at one time or another – but the people who frequently flout the rules of the road and drive like brainless troglodytes, well...
They're that person at the party who pukes in the washing machine.
86% of all fatal incidents can be attributed to human error. The drunk. The reckless. The lawless. The arrogant. The distracted. The impatient. The people at the party who arrive without bringing anything, bum cigarettes off of other people all night long, and then kill somebody.
Inattentive, discourteous, reckless drivers pose the single greatest threat on our roads. You know the type. They cause teeth-grinding anxiety everywhere they go, and we’ve all had to sit and watch them endanger the lives of every single human being around them.
Be courteous on the road. This could not be said enough.
It’s so much better to give way for other drivers trying to reach their destination – just like you – and practice caution instead of impatience.
Of course, we can’t always rely on other people’s ability to drive sensibly. But if you can’t beat them, in this instance, it doesn’t mean you have to join them.
Besides, being a calm and courteous driver will reflect well on your risk profile when applying for car insurance. No accident history means lower premiums.
How ‘bout that?
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