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(Other) Things I wish I knew about driving in SA - A guide for new motorists

2018-04-28 17:00

Naseema Barday

Image: iStock

Cape Town - You’ve heard sage advice from your parents or driving instructor, and if you're a veteran driver you’ve experienced countless scenarios on our roads but are there things you wish you’d known before you started driving?

I’m not talking about your typical 'check your mirrors', 'check your handbrake', 'check your gears' rules of the road but rather those unwritten, often "common" rules and best practices that will make your driving experience that much easier.
Even though some of these rules may be common knowledge, it sometimes takes breaking them the first time to know that they actually exist. 

These are things you thought you’d know when you started driving, but you still end up doing, and (hopefully) learning from them.

Here are some of my unwritten rules – broken on a few (embarrassing) occasions: 

1 Take your parking ticket with you. 
Don't leave it in your car assuming that you will come back and pay for the ticket. You only make that mistake once, or twice.

2 Remember where you parked. 
If you are in an unfamiliar place, landmarks are your friend. Don’t rely on other cars as these vehicles may be long gone by the time you get back.

3 Humble yourself on the road. 
Don’t think because you are driving, everyone needs to respect you. That is an accident waiting to happen.

4 Don’t assume people follow the rules of the road. 
Stop signs: What are those? I’ve caught myself stopping at a two-way, when I had the right of way, just because I don’t trust other drivers. I’ve also caught myself asking the question “How does a stop sign work?”

5 Try not to park under large trees. 
The shade may be tempting in hot weather, but birds are even more tempted to do their duty right on top of your car. And don’t think you are safe when you are busy getting into your car either, those birds have no manners. 

6 Watch your fuel gauge. 
It takes a bit of time to get to know the distance you can drive with the amount of fuel you have in your car. This always comes in handy.

7 What is a budget?

This is a serious question for young drivers.

8 ZZZzz...
Driving after lunch on a hot day will lead you straight to Snoozeville. 

9 Don’t drive when you’re angry or sick either. 
You could hit the accelerator instead of the brakes.

10 Blindspots are there for a reason. 
A blind spot will always remain a blind spot even after years of practice. Don’t think you’ve suddenly developed that third-eye while driving. The road will humble you very quickly.

11 Always keep spare change in your car.
Not only is this efficient but it is also safer than rummaging through your wallet or purse looking for change, unaware of your surroundings.

12 Red means go?
In South Africa, we treat red traffic lights after 10 pm as yield signs. But it needs to be timed right. You can’t stop at a red light in fear of getting hijacked, and you can’t just drive either, in the fear of getting T-boned in the middle of the intersection. (Please note, that while this might be a safety habit of young female drivers, it is against the law to jump a red traffic light. - Ed)

13 Be observant, at all times.
Always assume cars will come out of nowhere because they will. You’ve seen Harry Potter.

14 Easy does it.
It is possible to stall while going over a speed bump (sigh).

15 Crawling along.
A speed limit of 10km/h in a parking lot or complex does not mean you need to drive 10km/h. You will stall.

16 Clutch control.
The clutch does almost everything. There’s a reason it is called clutch control.

17 Clutch control 2.0.
If you’re in 4th or 5th gear and you're slowing down, you can still stay in gear until your car starts jerking. Again, clutch control is another friend you need to be acquainted with.

18 Leg Day in traffic.
Traffic will not only drain the life out of you after a long day of work, but it will also give your left leg a killer workout (assuming you drive a manual car). Missed leg day in the gym? Traffic’s got your back (well, your leg).

19 Know what the different sounds of your car mean.
Is it a ringing, thumping or whistling sound? Either of which, these are all bad sounds coming from your vehicle and you should have it checked out. And if you hear a hooter that is not yours, you’re probably doing something you shouldn’t be doing or not giving way to a taxi.

20 Cussing is part of driving.
Your vocabulary expands to sailor level when a taxi cuts in front of you, or your fellow road-users don't indicate or when they hog the fast lane at 40km/h.

21 Forget what the K53 has taught you.
Private practice will confirm absolutely nothing you’ve learned in K53. When you stop, you should put your gear in neutral and lift your handbrake up, right? Not in SA. Not unless you want to make yourself an easy target for hijacking by not being alert and always ready to move if someone dodgy approaches your vehicle.

22 Driving in heels.
You can not drive with high heels or formal shoes without damaging the shoe eventually.

23 Be observant.
Motorbikes are loud, but they can sneak up on you at any given moment. Another reason why you should NOT drive with earphones or loud music!

24 Instant lift club.
You become everybody’s personal chauffeur.

25 Hidden Treasures.
The inside of your car and centre console becomes a treasure chest the day you decide to clean your car, because of the number of things you lose over time.

26 'Narnia' is a reality.
But if you lose something between the seats or centre console, don’t bother looking for it. Narnia is real and it is in your car.


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