Road safety measures to avoid accidents
when Driving in South
Road accidents in South Africa are exceptionally
high, and based on reports, the high mortality in these accidents are mostly due to a combination
of bad driving, speeding and insufficient regulatory control of the vehicle.
The roads in South Africa are generally in a good condition, but poor lighting on rural roads,
driving under the influence of alcohol, and animal crossings late at night result in an increase in
Driving in any new country will present hazards for the unfamiliar driver, but using common
sense while travelling in South Africa will get you far, as long as you take all the necessary
An accident is the worst thing that can befall you while travelling.
Below is a list of safety procedures that can be used as a checklist when you are travelling by
Enjoying the scenery riding a motorbike in South Africa
Photograph by Danie van der Merwe
Before Your Trip
An accident is the worst thing that can befall you while driving in South Africa
- Don't forget that work and emotional stress will cause fatigue, so bare this in mind when
planning your trip.
- Before you even think of setting off, make sure that you are well rested. At least 6 hours
sleep is recommended the night before.
- Check your vehicle's "vital signs", like head-and-tail lights, indicators, wind screen wipers,
- Ensure that you're filled up on oil, brake fluid, coolant and steering fluid, and inspect all
the belts and hoses.
- Don't forget about the tyre pressure. The right pressure will prevent tread separation and
blow-outs. This also applies to the spare wheel. Don't leave home without one.
- Have a look at the car battery. If you suspect that it has reached the end of its life, you
know what to do.
- Make sure that you have a set of basic tools, a jack, wheel spanner and a spare wheel present.
An emergency kit containing a compass, duct tape, a first aid kit and a flashlight will also come
- Plan your route well in advance and try to rest every two hours, even if is just a short stop
for a walkabout.
- Invest in good quality sunglasses to protect your eyes and prevent sun glare.
Photograph by Danie van der Merwe
On the Road
When driving in South Africa one often comes past strange objects like this road sign that has seen some heavy times -
Photograph by Damien du Toit
- Always wear seat belts while driving to eliminate fatal accidents.
- Keep a steady supply of light foods to keep your energy levels up, and keep the vehicle well
ventilated; not too hot or too cold.
- As far as possible, take company along to counter boredom.
- Stop for a break the moment you start losing concentration, or give the wheel to another
- Pay close attention to the road signs and markings.
- Adhere to the speed limit, and don't try to low fly to your destination. Remember, the trip is
part of the experience.
- Never, under any circumstances, drive under the influence of alcohol in South Africa. You will
only be rewarded with a hefty prison sentence.
- Avoid overcrowding the car, as this will only serve as a distraction.
- Be on the lookout for aggressive drivers. This can intimidate people who are not used to
- Remember to take a short break every two hours.
- Try to avoid driving between 1 and 5 am, when your body is used to its downtime.
- Keep a safe following distance from the car in front of you. A good rule of thumb is either one
car space between you, or a three second gap.
- Reduce speed when your visibility is impaired or when the road is wet.
- Be on the lookout for animal crossings on rural roads.
- Texting and talking on your phone without a hands free unit is illegal in South Africa, so be
sure to have a working hands free unit, or pull over in a designated area when you need to make a
- Keep your driver's license with you at all times when driving. This is also required under
South African law.
Rest Stop and Parking Precautions
- Only stop in designated areas. In an emergency, make sure that you as far from the side of the
road as possible.
- Aim for a well lighted area to park after dark. In a situation out of your control, use your
hazards. It's what they're there for.
- Stretch your legs at the rest stop. Walk about briskly for a few minutes to ensure that you are
wide awake before you get behind the wheel again.
- Always lock your car under all circumstances.
- Don't be foolish and flaunt your valuables. Ideally you should leave all your valuables at home,
but if you travelling with expensive equipment, lock it in the trunk out of sight. Do not tempt
fate, or the ingenuity of "smash-and-grab" robbers.