The Easter holiday traffic has already started hotting up with holidaymakers experiencing road congestion and road accidents since early this morning.

Dave Johnston, consultant for the Matrix Road Safety Association, offers these additional tips for road users as they prepare for and embark on their holiday voyages:

·        Before a trip, start with the basics like checking the vehicle out and specifically paying attention to tyres. Many drivers are not aware that there are TWO different tyre pressures for vehicles, one when unloaded (driver only) and higher pressures when the vehicle is loaded with passengers and luggage. Failure to increase pressures before a trip with a loaded vehicle could very easily result in a blow-out. Under-inflated tyres are the biggest cause of tyre failure in South Africa and drivers often get a fright when this happens resulting in sudden braking. This could easily cause the vehicle to slew sideways and end up rolling. What drivers should do if they have a blow-out is to concentrate on the steering and keep the vehicle going as straight ahead as possible and stay away from the brake pedal, just let the vehicle decelerate normally.

·        Insufficient following distance is a major cause of drivers running out of time and space, often resulting in a crash. The correct minimum following distance for normal conditions, at any speed, is 3 seconds.  This is checked by watching the vehicle ahead of you passing some fixed object like a shadow in the road and then counting ‘one-thousand-and-one, one-thousand-and-two, one-thousand-and-three’ and the front of your vehicle should not have passed the fixed object before you have completed your phrase. Tests on South African roads show that most drivers leave an average of 0.25 to 0.50seconds behind the vehicle in front. Drivers have an average reaction time of 1 second, so what that means is that when there is a problem or emergency ahead, the vehicle WILL be involved in that crash because it is not humanly possible to avoid it. The driver simply ran out of time and space. Many drivers refuse to leave this 3 second following distance because another vehicle may cut in. Well, who cares, they are only ‘stealing’ one of your 3 seconds so just back off one second and you will arrive safely at your destination 1 second later! Even if ten vehicles cut in front of your trip, you will arrive 10 seconds later… it really does not matter.

·        The use of the yellow line area (Emergency Lane) causes many problems on our roads. Firstly, there are certain legal aspects regarding the use of the yellow line area.

o   You do not have to move into the yellow line area if a following driver flashes their headlights at you.

o   It may only be done during daylight hours on a single lane roadway and not on a multi-lane freeway.

o   The driver must have clear forward visibility for at least 150m.

o   It may not be done near a bend in the road, a blind rise or at any place where forward visibility is impaired.

Many trucks now have a sticker on the rear stating ‘Driver not authorised to travel in the yellow line’. The reason for this is that when a truck moves over in busy traffic, the faster moving flow of traffic coming past does not allow the truck back into the travelling lane when the yellow line area ends. Trucks take a long time to stop and this invariably results in the truck driver ‘forcing’ their way back into the lane of traffic causing passing vehicles to swerve into the lane of oncoming traffic, resulting in a head-on crash. Another problem when passing a vehicle travelling in the yellow line area is that drivers tend to go quite wide, often slightly over the centre line in the road. When approaching vehicles are doing the same thing from the opposite direction the scene is set for a high speed quarter-frontal head-on crash where there will be fatalities. The human body does not withstand sudden stopping very well. So, drivers should look and plan well up ahead (look at least 12-15 seconds ahead) and also ‘pace’ themselves in the traffic by speeding up OR slowing down a bit, so that when you go past the vehicle in the yellow line area, there are no oncoming vehicles and you have an escape route to the right if needed.


·        Holiday driving has many hidden hazards and often drivers are not accustomed to driving for long periods of time. This could result in fatigue setting in, so make sure you are properly rested and stop for regular breaks. Long trips could also result in travelling into the night where all the daytime hazards still exist but now with limited forward visibility! On dipped beam, headlights shine a maximum of 45m by law. At 120km/h a vehicle is covering 33.3m per second. If there is an object in the road, the driver will only react and get to the brake pedal about 1 second later which would leave them with 12m to stop the vehicle from 120km/h. Not possible. A light motor vehicle with ABS anti-lock brakes on a dry tar surface needs approximately 105m to stop.


·        Distractions for a driver when travelling can be disastrous. Tell your passengers that you cannot look at them when talking, you need to keep your eyes on the road! Simply adjusting the air conditioner or changing a CD could easily have the driver’s eyes off the road for 3 seconds. This means that the driver has their eyes off the road for the length of a rugby field! Drivers should also not be distracted by the beautiful scenery in our country. Rather stop and have a good look, after all, you are not in a race, you are going on holiday. Start your holiday when you leave home!


Brought to you by the Matrix Road Safety Association.