The first school holidays of the year coupled with an extra-long weekend signals a busy time on South African roads in the weeks ahead and travellers are cautioned to stay safe on the roads.

“From our experience in previous years, we know that this is an especially busy time on our roads and this, unfortunately, often leads to an increase in the number of tragic road accidents,” says Shalen Ramduth of Netcare 911.

Emergency teams has bolstered its resources with ambulances, advanced life support response vehicles and emergency care practitioners along the N3 highway between Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal during this busy holiday period.

“Every motorist has a role to play in helping to make South Africa’s roads safer over this time by following reasonable safety precautions and displaying courteous driving behaviour. If we all take a few simple measures when travelling, it is possible to reduce the number of accidents and ensure that more people reach their destinations without incident and return safely after their holidays,” says Ramduth.

Two major contributors to road accidents are driver fatigue and drunk driving, which are preventable. “Drivers need to be mentally alert and in good physical condition when embarking on a road trip, and stop at least every two hours for a break to refresh themselves so that they do not become fatigued, which can impair driving ability,” Ramduth advises.

“Drinking and driving is highly irresponsible and we urge the public not to drive while intoxicated or travel with a driver who is under the influence. One of the most dangerous things about alcohol is that it can stimulate people to take unnecessary risks without them realising that their judgment and coordination are impaired.

“Alcohol often creates a sense of confidence, so that people under the influence mistakenly believe that they are fully in control and able to drive.”

Ramduth urges drivers to ensure that their vehicle is roadworthy and equipped with a spare tyre that is in good repair, basic tools, a reflective triangle and first aid kit.

Safety tips
• Always buckle up. Ensure that the driver and passengers are wearing seat belts and children are properly secured in safety seats at all times during a journey.
• Get adequate quality sleep before setting off on your journey.
• Avoid drinking alcohol before and during the journey.
• Stop and take a break from driving at least every two hours.
• If you are feeling tired, stop at a safe place and stretch your legs – wait for at least ten minutes before getting back in the car as you need to ensure that you are properly refreshed – or take a nap if you are still tired.
• Keep the temperature in your car cool, since a warmer interior encourages sleepiness.
• Make a point of checking blind spots and ‘reading’ road conditions such as watching out for potholes or a slippery surface in rainy weather, as well asoncoming and rear traffic – do not simply keep your eye on the vehicle ahead of you. Also watch out specifically for pedestrians and cyclists near or on the road.
• Do not use your cell phone while driving, rather allow your passengers to SMS, tweet and take photographs for you.
• Ensure a safe following distance of at least three seconds from the vehicle in front of you.
• Stay calm and extend your following distance between erratic and aggressive drivers.

“The importance of a first aid kit is often overlooked and sometimes the contents of the kits have expired. It is therefore essential to check the contents of your first aid kit regularly and replace any expired or damaged contents,” he adds.

“Before setting off on your journey, it is advisable to do some research to obtain current information about the route that you are planning to take, including any roadworks or detours you will encounter. Getting lost or disorientated, especially when tired, can cause a driver to become distracted which could lead to an accident.”