10 ways you can drive better in 2021
Australia is pretty big on jarring public service announcements. I recently came across an especially sobering one on YouTube. This may or may not have coincided with the recent shame of receiving my first traffic fine in about four years.
A family is merrily driving on a countryside road, children strapped into their car seats, happy couple up front. Daddy driver, however, seems to keep erring over the speed limit.
He passes a law enforcement officer who had stopped another car, thankful it was not him. He keeps driving, over the limit, engrossed in conversation with his passenger, leaves the road for a second, tries to recover, loses control and flips the car several times. Flailing arms, shrieking children – it was horrible and graphic.
“The lucky ones get caught” was the payoff line. And a great one at that.
A brush with the law is the better than the alternative as a means to remind one of their responsibilities behind the wheel.
With that in mind, we should go back to basics.
Here are 10 things (in no particular order) we should all be mindful of when operating a motor vehicle.
1: Drive dry
Please, people. The carnage caused by inebriated drivers is all too well documented in our country. If you are going to indulge in your lockdown stockpile, stay at home. Or use one of the convenient e-hailing services available in our modern world.
2: Stay in your lane
Some good and general life advice could be inferred from this one. Follow the course between the road markings – stop straddling, stop weaving. Solid painted lines (and islands) serve an important purpose.
3: Keep left and pass right
Okay, this could have been part of the point made above,– but since few people adhere to this rule, we decided it warranted a mention all on its own.
4: Sit properly
At any advanced driver training course, you will be taught the correct seating position is crucial to competently operate a motor vehicle. Reclining into the rear quarters or leaning to the side with one palm over the wheel might give you swagger points, but will not do you any favours in the event of an abrupt, evasive manoeuvre.
5: Back off
Even if you have the best braking system in the world, the laws of physics still apply. Tailgate aggressively and you are guaranteed to not be able to stop within a safe distance should the car ahead deploy anchors. In addition, leaving a sizable gap between yourself and the car in front gives space to make an escape should you need to – in the event of an attempted hijacking, for example.
6: Easy does it
Yes, we all fall short of the mandated speed limits from time to time. Exceeding the prescribed and encircled number by a few digits on occasion is inevitable, particularly in highway conditions when you may need to overtake safely. But regularly blasting down residential roads at 140km/h when you should be doing 60km/h is just not cool.
7: Text or drive, not both
We are constantly connected in 2021. Our myriad devices mean we are in a perpetual state of interaction. Vehicle infotainment systems are also enablers. Count how many people you spot operating a smartphone alongside a steering wheel. You might be one of them. Stop. Put it away. Focus on driving.
8: Be nice
See someone indicating? Instead of speeding up and trying to swoosh past them, would it add a significant amount of hours to your day to give them a gap? Please remember four-way stops and traffic circles are there for a reason. Not to serve as interesting landscape features while you drive nonchalantly by without attempting to slow down. And ease up on the road rage. It is not worth it.
9: Anticipation is key
Chances are that taxi is going to come to an abrupt halt. That Volkswagen Polo Vivo which seems to be showing no sign of braking is going to sail past the stop sign. The knackered Isuzu KB 250 veering to the left is probably going to change lanes without indicating. It sounds unfortunate, but expecting the worst from your fellow road users could prevent being blindsided, figuratively and literally.
10: Looking is free
Alertness is among your treasured tools in the arsenal of a safe driver. Be aware of your surroundings – that motorcyclist in your side mirror, for example, or the Fiat 500 in your blind spot. If we stay sharp, exercise vigilance and simply respect each other out there, it would go a long way to reducing the carnage that is all too prevalent on South African roads. Drive safely, friends.
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