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How To Stay Safe On (And Off) South African Roads This Festive Season

  • 5 min read

With the festive season holidays fast approaching, countless South Africans will be compiling their favourite playlists, finalising vacation plans with friends and family and gearing up for long trips on the country’s roads. 

However, with a recent 2021 study revealing that South Africa has the most dangerous roads in the world, holiday goers must take extra precautions to ensure they arrive at their destinations safely and make the most of their time with loved ones. 

Reports of the number of hijacking victims increasing from 64,000 to 134,000 in 2021/22, further cautions holiday goers to be extra vigilant when they’re driving through cities and towns they’re unfamiliar with. 

“There’s nothing more exhilarating than hitting the highway and seeing the open road ahead that signals the start of your festive season holidays. But unfortunately, this excitement is accompanied by increasing crime rates throughout the country,” says Attie Blaauw, head of Personal Lines Underwriting. 

“Over the past 12 months, we’ve seen significant increases in the frequency and the average value of stolen and hijacked vehicles by more than 75%. In addition, our reports indicate that while we have known older vehicles with less sophisticated alarm systems to be the most targeted in the past, during 2022, we have seen a significant increase in the theft and hijacking of newer and more expensive vehicles,” he adds.  

Santam shares the following tips to keep motorists, and their vehicles safe, this holiday season. 

Make sure your car is ready for the open road

As exciting as hitting the road during the holidays can be, consider hitting the brakes on your trip until you take your car for a safety check. Service your car before your trip to ensure your vehicle’s oil and water levels are high and that other system functions, such as lights, wipers, tyres and brakes, are in working order. 

Arrive Alive recommends doing a comprehensive check at least two weeks before you leave to go on holiday, allowing time to do the required repairs without having to rush for mechanics and automotive parts.  

Be aware of remote jamming

Naturally, while driving for extended hours, you’ll want to take a break and stop to stretch your legs, but make sure you park your car safely when doing so. Ensure your vehicle is parked in a well-lit, secure area, preferably with a security guard on duty. When possible, park in a secure garage. 

Most importantly, when leaving your vehicle, be aware of remote jamming, which uses a device to stop the car from locking. So, always physically check your door handle that the car is locked, even if the alarm sounds. It is also advised to ensure you test all remote devises and security systems at regular intervals. If there are any faults, contact an authorised service provider to fix or replace the faulty system with a recommended device. It is further advised to always store all valuable personal items such as sunglasses, cellphones and laptops in a locked boot and not where it’s visible. This reduces the temptation to steal.  Some insurance policies specify that items need to be locked in the boot when unattended, so train yourself and your family to do so regularly.

Fill up your tank

This tip might sound obvious, but in addition to a punctured tyre or flat battery, very few things are as frustrating and dangerous as running out of petrol. So, keep a close eye on your fuel tank and top it up whenever you see a petrol station. 

While the GPS or road signs might say there’s another station in 50kms, it may be closed, or there could be an unexpected delay on the road, like an accident or roadblock. So, it’s just not worth leaving it to chance. 

There are small yet effective economic driving techniques you can follow in between fuel stops to help you save fuel and avoid running empty halfway to your destination. 

Drive defensively 

It goes without saying that when driving on the open road, you should expect the unexpected. But, unfortunately, even if you’re driving cautiously, obeying the law, and doing everything right, there is always a chance that another motorist will endanger your life through reckless actions. 

That’s why you must drive defensively to stay aware of vehicles around you, potentially hazardous situations, and changing road and weather conditions. This method of driving will reduce the risk of collision. 

Install additional security measures 

Because of the significant increase in the frequency of stolen and hijacked vehicles, you must always be aware of your surroundings when you stop at a traffic light or a petrol station. 

By installing a tracking device, you not only increase the chances of a faster recovery of the vehicle, but you also reduce the likelihood of extensive damage, therefore, quicker repairs and less inconvenience to you. 

Unfortunately, the dangers of long-distance travelling extend beyond navigating congested roads and require you to keep your belongings and vehicle safe. By taking the time to be extra cautious, you can safeguard yourself, your loved ones, and your vehicle during the festive season.