Matric vac: Rite of passage or dead end?

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 RIGHT OF PASSAGE: Thousands of matriculants will travel across SA for the annual matric vacation period. Bad road behavior and inexperience could lead to tragedy on our roads. Image: Shutterstock ~ Shutterstock
CAPE TOWN, Western Cape - Matric Vacation, affectionately referred to as Matric Vac, is considered to be a rite of passage for matriculants in South Africa celebrating the end of their time at high school. 

It usually takes the form of a vacation to the coast with a group of friends, causing many parents to lie awake at night worrying.  
According to the Road Traffic Management Corporation, there are about 40 deaths a day and 14 000 a year on South Africa's roads. Human error is the largest contributor to this carnage, though pedestrian deaths make up about 40%. 


The RFMC reports 65% of fatal crashes are alcohol-related while drunk pedestrians account for just under 40% of all road fatalities.  Speeding and being distracted by a cellphone are often cited as leading causes of death, in addition to head-on collisions, largely caused by inconsiderate driving.

John Edmeston, CEO of Cartrack, said: “Having your child take their first tentative steps towards independence at the wheel of a car and far away from home is often a very frightening experience for a parent. 

“Not only is peer pressure and driving inexperience a serious concern, but crime such as hijacking is also never far from your mind. Far from wanting a ‘big brother’ approach, being able to know that your child is safe, driving responsibly, and can be located quickly if they need help or assistance, is a great comfort.
“Young and inexperienced drivers are often assumed to be in the wrong, even when a collision was not their fault. The speed at which the vehicle was travelling, kinematics of movement, momentum, direction, braking and cornering all paint a clear picture of what transpired leading up to and during a collision, that could very well exonerate a young driver.”

Using a vehicle tracking solution can provide peace of mind but it does open a can of worms when it comes to the issue of trust. Edmeston said: “It is always a good idea to have an open and honest discussion with all family members. Explain the risks and, if need be, use the statistics to emphasise the danger of drinking alcohol then  driving, speeding and your child’s vehicle possibly being stolen or hijacked.
“While your child will most likely understand the reasoning behind the installation of a vehicle tracking unit it will also set a clear parameter in which he or she can operate without it feeling like you are checking on them.”
 Tips for young drivers on Matric Vac:
• Buckle up
• Don’t use your cell phone while driving
• Get enough sleep and take a break to stretch your legs
• Pay attention to road signs and road markings
• Don’t drink and drive
• Don’t walk around inebriated
• Speed kills, so stick to the speed limit
• Know the emergency numbers of the areas you are driving through and staying at
• Keep your cool and avoid road rage
• Have your car serviced and thoroughly checked before your trip

Edmeston said: “We have all been young and we all know that parties and irresponsible behaviour is almost part-and-parcel of a young person’s rite of passage to the life of a responsible adult.

“There is, however, no greater risk and the fatalities among our youth on the roads are frightening. While there is no excuse for bad and reckless behaviour we would like to urge parents to have a serious discussion with their children before they embark on their matric vac and to reassure them that they can call you if something goes wrong, no
matter what."