SA holiday road trip: How to prepare your car and keep your family safe

Johannesburg – The holidays are once upon us, bringing with it the customary migration of South African families to various far-flung destinations. While this festive period is cause for celebration and relaxation, it doesn’t always have a happy ending; vehicle-related fatalities are the rise.  

With high volumes of cars on the road and many drivers still exhausted from a long and arduous first quarter, it’s doubly important to be properly prepared and to maintain high levels of alertness throughout the journey. 

So before setting off this holiday season, here is a quick checklist to help ensure a happy holiday and a safe return.

1 Check your car

Nobody wants to ruin months of planning with an unexpectedly derailed journey. So before embarking on your trip, take advantage of the myriad of car check-ups offered by car dealers during the holiday period, and ensure that your vehicle’s mechanical systems are in top condition, and that your oil and water levels are at optimal levels. Also make sure that your tyres are well treaded and properly pressured before you get going. 

2 Pack cleverly

While thoughts of soaking up the last rays of the summer sunshine can cause you to pack your car to the rafters to cater for every eventuality, it is important to be weary of compromising safety by overloading the vehicle. Vigilance is vital during this period, so it is imperative that your baggage does not in any way compromise your peripheral vision or block your blind-spots. Pack wisely and you will be likelier to head home in one piece.

3 Beat the rush

Road safety is also simpler if you avoid peak traffic periods, so make sure to leave early to beat the rush. It is also important to allocate sufficient travel time to your journey, as the majority of bad decisions are made when drivers are in a hurry. Take things slowly, avoid unnecessary overtaking and embrace that holiday spirit on the roads – your safety depends on it.

4 Rest up

Make sure you get enough rest before and during the journey and should you find yourself getting tired, adhere to the safety-first rule and pull over, stretch, rest and hydrate. It is also advisable to plan your journey with a driving partner in mind so that you can alternate the driving and optimise on physical and mental alertness. 

5 Practise good car habits 

While it is tempting to give in to your hunger pangs and nibble on a burger while you’re holding the steering wheel, avoid snacking while you are driving as this can be an enormous and ultimately fatal distraction. So as to avoid temptation, try to keep all potential distractions like keys, wallets and snacks safely out of reach. 

Mobile phones, though necessary for navigation and potential emergency situations, should also be switched to silent or ‘driving mode’ so as to negate the necessity to check every incoming message. Just one slip up could have dire consequences. 

                                                                         Image: iStock

6 Stay alert

Let’s face it, no road trip is complete without a great playlist, but using headphones to funnel your favourite tunes into your ears can leave you heavily compromised in terms of your overall road awareness. By blocking peripheral sounds, you’ll be blissfully unaware of sirens, hooting or other signs of a potential emergency until it’s too late. 

7 Keep it clean

Last but definitely not least, your sobriety is of the utmost importance whilst navigating South Africa’s ever-treacherous roads. So while the perils of drunken driving are no doubt well known to most, medications like painkillers can also create extreme drowsiness, so before dosing up, check the potential side effects so as to avoid compromising your concentration.