Every Easter, South Africans hit the road for their long awaited holiday – cars are loaded to the gills with luggage, mountain bikes, families and padkos. The caravans get a spring clean, the Venter trailers are packed and repacked, and the kids go crazy with anticipation. We’ve had a tough first quarter in 2017 and we’ve earned a good break, for sure.
The only drawback is that to get to our holiday destinations, we first have to brave the road along with everyone else making their getaway at the same time. The Easter weekend has a bleak history in terms of road safety – every year, there is a new road safety campaign launched, and every year the death toll remains horrific.
There’s no easy way to ensure we avoid the carnage. The roads are overloaded with holidaymakers, taxis and buses full of passengers longing to get home (often with heavily loaded trailers in tow), as well as the trucks that have to keep delivering their loads as usual.
The best we can do is to be prepared. Many motor dealers offer free safety checks at this time of year, and it’s a good idea to take advantage of one of these offers. How many of you honestly know if your shock absorbers and brakes are in tiptop condition, or if your brake lights are working? If you have any doubt, play it safe and have your car properly checked.
When last did you inspect your tyres? Take a good look at the tread depth, as well as the wear pattern. If they look great in the middle but are worn smooth on the inside, you should head to your local tyre dealer to have your alignment checked and ensure they are still safe for a long trip. While you’re at it, check your spare as well – it’s going to ruin your holiday if you need to change a tyre only to find that your spare is flat…
Remember, all you have to keep you safely on the road are four little patches of rubber no bigger than the palm of your hand. If your car is heavily loaded, check your handbook and pump up your tyres accordingly.
Is that special lock nut for your mag wheels still where you think it is? Better make sure! If your car is equipped with run flat tyres and doesn’t have a spare, you should also have a full can of emergency tyre filler in the boot. It’s not always possible to find certain sizes of run flat tyres in every Karoo dorp, and waiting around for a new tyre is going to dampen the fun factor very quickly.
Many caravans and trailers stand forgotten for big chunks of the year, so it’s important to do the same safety checks on these. Tyres can degrade over time, and your home from home needs to have working brakes unless you’re aiming to get to the bottom of Van Reenen’s in record time. Check your wheel bearings, too.
When you pack a car or trailer of any description, it’s worth considering your centre of gravity. Pack the heavy stuff low down and the lighter stuff on top – you’ll have better stability, especially at speed. Inside the car, think of loose items as missiles. In an emergency stop, everything not secured will become airborne and put you and your family at risk of serious injury.
Once you get on the road, all the usual road safety rules apply: don’t allow grumpy kids to distract you, make regular caffeine stops to help you stay alert, keep your cool when maniacs try to pass you in oncoming traffic. Make it easier by keeping the kids occupied with toys or games, and research your route before you leave – there are always interesting places to stop and small towns often have great local restaurants and guesthouses. If you see your journey as an adventure rather than as a marathon race with a time limit, you will arrive feeling less stressed and a lot happier.
Wishing everyone a good break, safe travel and a very happy Easter! #keepitsafe #VisionZero