Road safety: Tips for safe highway driving

April is usually a time for holidays and long-distance drives, which means our national highways are busier than ever. Before you hit the road, read below for a refresher on safe highway driving.

When the highway is flowing, try to keep a two- to three-second following distance – and double this when it’s raining or the roads are wet. If you’re driving through busy settlements, like a town or village, slow down so you have more time to react if a pedestrian or animal unexpectedly crosses the road.

If you’re driving too closely and the person in front of you slams on the brakes, you might not have enough time to react appropriately. 

When you’re on the on-ramp, assess the speed of the other vehicles. Entering the highway too slowly could disrupt the flow of traffic, so if possible use the on-ramp to get up to speed. Only move onto the highway when you’re clear to do so. 

If you are already driving on the highway and see an on-ramp approaching, be considerate to those trying to enter the highway. If possible, move into the right lane, to give the other driver space to get onto the highway safely.

Check your blind spots before changing lanes and taking the off-ramp. Remember that there might be robots at the end of the off-ramp, and at the very least you will be merging with another road, so slow down. 

If you miss an off-ramp, don’t reverse or do a U-turn on the highway. Not only is this illegal, but it’s also very dangerous. 

Here in South Africa, we call the far right lane, the ‘fast’ lane. That’s usually where the fastest drivers speed along and come right up to your bumper with desperate flashing lights if you don’t move out of the way quickly enough. We’re here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that way!

Reframe your thoughts – change the term ‘fast lane’ to ‘passing lane’ and use the right lane for overtaking only. That means driving in the left lane, or if it’s a bigger highway, the middle lane. In some countries, it’s illegal to drive in the right lane if you’re not using it for passing. It makes a lot of sense from a safety point of view. If you drive in the fast lane and another driver wants to pass you, and the desperate light flicking and bumper riding doesn’t encourage you to move, the faster car might be tempted to overtake you by passing on the left. This is dangerous to you and other drivers on the road.

When you’re out on the open road, it might be tempting to ‘put foot’ and to test just how fast your car can go, but if you do that, you’re putting your life at risk, as well as the lives of your passengers and other road users. 

When you’re speeding, you don’t have time to react and because your car is travelling so fast, you require a longer braking distance. There is also a greater risk of losing control of the vehicle. And if you are involved in a high-speed collision, the damage to the vehicle and more importantly, the people involved in the accident, is more severe. 

Treat a motorcycle as if it’s a regular-sized car – that means keep a safe following distance, be careful not to cut them off when changing lanes, and always use your indicators to signal when you plan to change lanes.

Remember if you’re driving behind a truck and you can’t see the driver, there’s a good chance the truck can’t see you either. When overtaking any vehicle, but especially a truck, give the driver in front of you plenty of space, use your indicators, and be mindful of merging in front of them. Truck drivers are not able to stop as quickly as other drivers.

Yes, you’re confident in your driving skills, but remember that other drivers might make mistakes. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted while you’re driving (put your mobile phone away!) and be on the lookout for any dangers that might pop up pretty quickly while driving at speeds on the highway.

Road works usually mean narrow lanes, slower traffic, workers and construction vehicles on the highway. As you approach road works, adjust your speed limit accordingly and be prepared to slow down and possibly stop if needed. Obey the instructions of the construction crew. 

Aggressive behaviour is a real problem and a danger to all road users. It might be frustrating if another driver makes a dangerous and careless mistake on the highway but take a deep breath and keep going. With our country’s culture of violence and high-stress lifestyles, it’s really not worth it. 

If you need to stop your car, try your best to rather get off the highway if possible. If you sense that your car is losing power and is about to break down, try to get your car as far off the left side of the highway as possible. 

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