Only 8% of motorists feel safe on SA roads over festive period - AA

Automobile Association
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 DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE: SA’s already horrific road death figures increase numerically over holiday periods as many irresponsible road users drink and drive. Image: Shutterstock ~ Shutterstock

Cape Town - Drunk driving, speeding, and a lack of law enforcers, are among the biggest safety concerns for drivers on South African roads over the festive period. This is according to motorists polled by the Automobile Association (AA) in a recent survey. The survey also found that only 8% of motorists feel safe while travelling on South African roads over this period.

According to the results of the poll, conducted in early December, 62% of motorists regard drunk driving as the biggest problem on the country’s roads. Apart from speeding and a lack of law enforcers, the survey found that motorists believe unlicensed drivers also pose a major problem.

SA drivers' attitudes 'not good enough'

"The results are indicative of what we have been saying for a long time: that the attitude of South African drivers is simply not good enough. Drunk driving, speeding or driving without proper licenses are behaviours that can be changed but aren’t. Unless more is done to prevent these types of conduct, they will continue unabated,” the AA noted.

According the AA, under South African law, the legal limit is a breath alcohol content of 0.24mg per 1000ml, or a blood alcohol limit of 0.05g per 100ml.

In October 2015, Wheels24 asked users how many alcoholic drinks they consume before deciding they can't drive. A News24 poll garnered 20 168 votes. The results are alarming:

After how many drinks do you decide you can't drive?

1-2 - 16.24%
3-4 - 19.82%
More than 4 - 16.25%
I don't think about it - 11.4%
I don't drink and drive - 36.25%

Results from the AA's survey seem to confirm this belief as a staggering 60% of motorists said their safety is reliant on the attitude of other road users. While 8% of motorists said they feel safe travelling on the country’s roads over the festive period, 27% said they didn’t feel safe as the roads they use need upgrading or better maintenance.

Watch: Drunk driver crashes into car...twice

“Another worrying element we found was that motorists say that they drive an average of three hours before stopping to take a break. We would encourage all drivers to change this by stopping every two hours or 200km to refresh and relax. Being tired behind the wheel is extremely dangerous and stopping regularly ensures that you maintain focus for the whole journey,” said the AA.

"Motorists must obey the rules of the road"

According to the AA this has been backed up by a recent study by the American Automobile Association (AAA) which found that drowsy driving is comparable to driving drunk. The AAA has urged all drivers to remain as alert as possible.

Being alert on the road is especially important as 66% of respondents who said they were going away indicated they will be travelling between 501km and more than 1500km over the festive period. The AA said on long journeys maintaining focus on the road can become difficult and that stopping to stretch legs, or for fresh air, is essential.

The AA said: "Our country has a high road fatality rate over festive periods. To begin dealing effectively with this, motorists must obey the rules of the road, drive responsibly and respect other road users. We urge all motorists to apply these principles for a safer, happier festive period on our roads in 2016," the AA concluded.

7 driving tips that will keep you safe on the roads:

1. Don’t run out of fuel

Get into a habit of filling your tank when it reaches the halfway mark rather than waiting for the fuel-reserve warning light to activate. This will reduce the risk of being stuck along the side of road or having to pull into a petrol station in a less-than-desirable or isolated location.

2. Plan ahead to avoid being lost on the road

Planning your route in advance will prevent travelling along unfamiliar roads. If your vehicle isn't fitted with satnav, there are many GPS devices and mobile applications that can  guide you on your travels. Criminals are quick to spot drivers that appear to be lost in an area.

3. Keep your doors locked, windows closed

This is critical during traffic and if you find yourself stranded along the road. Breakdown technicians – especially those from motoring dealerships, all carry a form of identification. Always insist on technicians presenting this to you prior to allowing them to assist.

4. Keep valuable items hidden while driving

Keep your doors locked and your windows only partially open should your vehicle not have climate control. Always keep items such as laptops, handbags and cellphones out of sight. 

5. Check fluid levels regularly

Your vehicle’s owner’s manual will show you how to do this and the desired quantities and specifications to be used. Also keep an eye on operating temperatures and pressures as this will allow you to be proactive should a risk arise, rather than being forced to stop in a dangerous area.

6. Never offer a lift to strangers

Sadly, the prevalence of hijacking in South Africa means offering strangers a lift can be extremely dangerous. Beware of anyone trying to point out dangers ahead or defects on your car. If you suspect that they might be right, approach the situation with caution.

7. Share your route plans

When driving alone, always ensure that someone is familiar with the route you’ll be travelling and the estimated time that you should arrive at your destination. Should you become stranded on road, contact family or friends informing them of your predicament. A good habit to form with your family is to have members check in when they've arrived at their destinations.