Safety rules for road-trippers: Navigating unfamiliar roads this Easter holiday.

Easter is road trip season in South Africa, with many people looking to take advantage of the long weekend by travelling to outlying holiday spots. As drivers take to the roads it is key to take precaution and carefully prepare when it comes to route mapping as crime-related incidents along the routes using Google Maps continue to rise.

This is the opinion of Siyakhe Masiye, spokesperson at MiWay Insurance who says that although GPS systems can be immensely beneficial when travelling via lesser-known routes, it’s important to review the route that the system provides before hitting the road. “Preferably, you should never follow the navigation blindly; instead, you should have an idea of the highways you will be using, making sure to check their safety ratings and warnings ahead of time.”

Main routes such as N1 towards Limpopo, N3 towards Durban and other destinations towards   Western Cape, Mpumalanga and Bloemfontein are some of the most popular domestic travel destinations over Easter, especially for families and friends, says Masiye. “However, reaching the hidden gems within these crowd-favourite locations can take motorists off the beaten track. On these kinds of trips, road conditions may vary, and emergency services might be less accessible therefore, safe and responsible driving habits should be a top priority.”

Masiye provides South Africans with the following tips for safe road tripping this Easter break:

Double check your GPS

One international study found that the use of GPS devices can reduce the number of kilometres spent on the road by 16% and the travel time spent in unknown areas by 18%.[1]

As Masiye elaborates: “Many popular apps offer live updates and confirmations from other users for better navigation. Using alternative and reliable GPS navigation systems, such as Waze which allows you to choose between three preferred routes. When in unknown areas make sure you stick to well-lit busy roads especially at night, using apps with real-time updates to avoid roadblocks.

Reviewing your trip beforehand can also help you to steer clear of high-risk zones and provide you with an indication of any important and useful landmarks that may be along the way.

Make sure to tell a close friend or family where you are going for safety. If possible, share your route and expected arrival time. Google Maps has a feature that lets you share your live location. This means your trusted person can keep an eye on where you are. If they notice anything unusual or if you’re not moving for a long time, they can take action to help you.”

Keep calm and stay alert

Another important tip to remember is to stay calm and alert at all times. Navigating your way through gravel roads or into wooded areas where there may be a number of road obstacles and foliage will require focus and concentration. Taking regular breaks along the way in safe environments like petrol stations, and not on the side of the road.

It’s also important not to panic if encountering a hazard on the road and to be aware of the psychological phenomenon called ‘threat fixation.’ This refers to the tendency of drivers to become overly focused on a potential risk, often to the extent that they neglect other important aspects of driving. Panicking may lead to sudden and erratic movements, which can increase the risk of accidents or collisions.

Make a NO-booze driving commitment

Many of the fatal crashes on the road each Easter are attributed to driving under the influence of alcohol. A study conducted for the South African Medical Journal found that the use of alcohol is associated with more complex fatal road crashes involving other drivers and pedestrians, as opposed to fatalities involving only the driver.[2]

Advocate Johan Jonck from Arrive Alive commented: “We need to take drinking and driving more seriously as a nation. We need to be aware that even if we practice sober driving habits, we may be sharing the road with other irresponsible drivers who simply do not fully comprehend the threat that they represent to themselves and others.

For this reason, motorists need to avoid all kinds of recklessness on the road, including speeding, overloading, and reckless overtaking. This, coupled with avoiding distractions and remaining vigilant until you reach your destination, can go a long way in making sure you arrive alive.”

Safeguard your wheels

Another important factor to consider is the safety of the vehicle. Incidents of hijacking or smash-and-grabs may be a bigger risk in sparsely populated areas or roads that are remote or secluded. To protect against this, motorists could consider installing smash-and-grab safety film over their windows, which will make the glass less likely to shatter if someone tries to break it.

Another safeguard is to install a tracking device on the vehicle so that in the unfortunate event that the car is stolen, it can be tracked via GPS and recovered. As Masiye concludes: “In some cases, depending on the insurer, installing a tracking device can help customers negotiate a discount on their insurance premium, so there’s a benefit in terms of personal safety but also in terms of affordability.

In general, by following these guidelines, you can decrease the risk of unexpected incidents and stay safe on the roads – over Easter, and beyond.”


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