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How to steer clear of dangerous drivers
when driving in South Africa

Most driving accidents are caused by our own error, and distracted drivers are becoming even more commonplace on roads, thanks to them trying to multitask and not focusing on the driving task at hand.

Even if with a a zero tolerance policy towards being intoxicated behind the wheel, drunk driving in South Africa is still rife, claiming thousands of lives a year.

As macabre and bleak as it might sound, we are just a few feet away from danger and death every day.

This is especially true when travelling down a busy road, where it only takes a split second for an oncoming vehicle to lose control and veer across the centre line.

No matter how a good a driver you are, fatal accidents happen because of what drivers do or do not do.

Unfortunately we cannot control their actions, but we can learn a few defensive driving techniques that will help to identify potential hazardous situations while driving. By identifying these situations, you are in control of your environment, and in the driver seat of your own safety, so to speak.

National road in the North West province of South Africa
copyright © South African tourism
National road in the North West Province of South Africa

What you can do.

  • Learn how to identify aggressive and dangerous drivers, and steer well clear of them. Road rage is another cause of death on the roads, and you might just find yourself in a pre-meditated bumper bash.

  • Keep your focus. Watching the road is simple enough, but you also need to keep your eyes on the other cars, pedestrians and traffic signs. You have to anticipate the actions of everyone around you.

  • Stay alert and pay attention to your surroundings. Drugs and alcohol greatly decreases your response time. You need your wits about you to quickly analyse a situation and act accordingly.

  • Don't forget to do your observations. Check your mirrors every 30 seconds.

  • Wear your safety belt, and do not exceed the speed limit. Violation of both these laws are susceptible to hefty fines.

  • Keep your following distance by leaving a three second gap between you and the car in front. Increase this gap in bad weather conditions.

  • Don't assume that other drivers will be courteous and give you right of way when you try to merge. Always assume the worst case scenario, just to be safe.

  • Be consistent in your driving. Don't accelerate or jam on the brakes for no reason.

  • Don't be one of "those" drivers who inspire road rage in others. That means no tailgating, using your indicator as it was intended, and general courteous behaviour on the roads.

  • Check and double check your blind spots before overtaking. It is called a blind spot for a reason, when you cannot see the vehicle behind you.

Driving in South Africa on the M1 metropolitan highway in Johannesburg
Traffic on the M1 metropolitan highway in Johannesburg

Be wary of;

  • Potentially dangerous drivers. Just keep clear of them and resist the urge to get involved in a verbal showdown.

  • Vehicles where the driver's range of vision is impaired, like trucks carrying heavy loads, or when the mirrors are missing.

  • Vehicles in front of you where the mirrors are not visible. A good rule to remember is; when you cannot see the mirrors, the driver cannot see you.

  • Any vehicle in an overall bad condition - missing body parts, rust and loose parts.

  • Trucks and trailers with unsecured loads, where anything might come apart.

  • Over-crowded cars. Chances are good that the driver is not focusing on the road.

  • Drivers chatting on their phones. You can be guaranteed that their attention is elsewhere.

  • Vehicles that spontaneously wander of the road, due to either a mechanical fault, or a drowsy driver.

Be wary of 4 wheels x 4 legs slow-mo horse and donkey cart traffic when driving in South Africa
Photograph by Danie van der Merwe
Be wary of 4 wheels x 4 legs slow-mo donkey cart traffic

Times to sharpen your focus

  • Between dusk and dawn, or in any scenario when your vision is impaired.

  • During wet conditions.

  • In peak hours for traffic, before and after office hours.

  • Afternoons when school ends.

  • Late nights during weekends when bars and clubs close their doors.

  • During public holidays as families travel to and from their destinations.

  • After large social gatherings like sporting events.

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