Tips From AA

Some Tips From Automobile Association

Driving at night

The AA says that because of reducing traffic flow, fewer accidents occur after dark than during daylight, but the proportion of fatalities is higher. The factors most commonly associated with night accidents are fatigue, inattention, the influence of liquor and reduced visibility. Depth perception is also reduced, resulting in impaired judgement and delayed reflex actions.

After leaving a brightly-lit place, it takes about 30 minutes before the human eye can see at 80 per cent efficiency, and up to an hour before night vision is at its best. Approximately 20 percent of adults have vision that is defective to some degree - from mild short - sightedness to night-blindness. Motorist who find that night driving is a severe strain on their eyes should consult a doctor or optometrist, who may recommend that driving after dark be avoided altogether.

Avoid keeping your gaze focused at a single distance, as this will increase eye fatigue. Glance about frequently, and take in areas at the edge of the area lit by your headlights. A poorly-lit object is best seen if you focus your vision slightly to one side of it, as peripheral (outer) vision is less affected by poor light than central vision.

Speed should be reduced at night, so that you never drive beyond the range of your vision - that is, you must be able to stop under all circumstances, within the length of road illuminated by your headlights. Travelling with low or dipped beams, therefore, calls for lower speeds. Following distances should be increased at night and, unless you are about to overtake, keep the vehicle ahead at such a distance that it is just in the far limit of light from the dipped beam.

Headlights should be dipped well before an approaching vehicle is within range of the main beam. If the other driver does not respond, flick the beam back to high for an instant, and then dip. Resist the temptation to retaliate by keeping the high beam on - having two blinded drivers instead of one is merely doubling the risk.

When approaching a vehicle travelling in the opposite direction while you are on a left-hand bend, dip the beam early, or it will sweep across the curve, blinding the other driver. On a right-hand bend, your headlights will shine outwards and away from approaching traffic, but if an oncoming driver dips his beam, it would be courteous for you to do the same.

Headlights need to be adjusted periodically, especially when a night trip is planned with the car loaded more heavily than usual. With rear-seat passengers and a laden boot, the dipped beam will be angled to shine too far ahead, and the main beam will dazzle oncoming drivers without properly illuminating the road. It may be advisable to have the adjustment done at a garage, and the beams should be reset when driving with the normal load. Tyre pressure should also be adjusted before loading a vehicle for holiday travelling.


Long distance travel tips


Beware the other driver

Together with darkness and rainy conditions, other road-users may be regarded as one of the commonest hazards. Learn to recognise potentially dangerous drivers and keep well clear of them. No matter how severely you may be provoked, keep your temper and resist the temptation to retaliate - it may result in anything from a collision to a shooting-match. The AA urges motorists to be especially wary when driving near any of the following:

There are times of the day, and of the week, when accidents occur more frequently:


Give way to better road manners

A motorist is not justified in keeping to the right-hand lane and obliging traffic to overtake him on his left simply because he is driving at the legally-allowed maximum speed. Another motorist may have a valid reason for exceeding the limit, and to obstruct him unreasonable may lead to the building up of a dangerous situation in which bad temper may overcome good judgment.

In an emergency switch on your emergency hazard lights as well as your headlights and drive at a safe speed. Obey the rules of the road and don't drive recklessly.

This advice comes from the Automobile Association following reports received from motorists who are playing "policeman" and blocking the right-hand (overtaking) lane of a multi-lane carraigeway.

Although driving in the emergency lane during daylight hours is permitted under certain provisos, following traffic has no right to force traffic ahead to move across the yellow line to allow overtaking. it may be courteous to move over but it places the onus on you to ensure that it is safe to do so.

The AA urges motorists to be more tolerant and patient on our roads by driving defensively, rather than aggressively.

Road courtesy - makes driving a pleasure for all.


Buckle-up: seat belts save lives

Every year in South Africa around 10 000 people die and another 150 000 people are injured in road traffic accidents. Chilling figures, with the December holidays upon us. The human loss is traumatic but the economic cost is huge. The bills for police and emergency services, damage to vehicles and property, and lost output cost the country an estimated R12 billion per annum.

There has to be a way to reduce this tragic toll of death and suffering. Indeed, there is. And it only involves ten seconds of thought and action. "Ten seconds that can save your live" is a simple, direct message. The message is that four quick, simple, cost-free actions that take 10 seconds can give save a life.

And those actions?

Seat belt use is essential on every journey, no matter how short or how slow - and it is vital for everyone in a car. It will save passengers - but it will also save drivers. An unrestrained passenger in a car involved in a collision can hit others with the force of a small elephant.

Four Simple Steps. Actions that take seconds and could save lives. Think about it. And then do it.


Tyres can be lethal

The Automobile Association has called for the tightening up of the control of second-hand tyres finding their way into the country and then on to the vehicles transporting hundreds of thousands of commuters.

The AA was reacting to in-depth research undertaken by the Sunday Times and M-Net's Carte Blanche investigative teams, the results of which have recently been released.

Due to the lack of sufficient good quality tyre casings the tyre industry is forced to import second-hand tyres for retreading purposes. Although permits are required for such imports many more tyres are finding their way across our borders and are then being offered for to sale to the unsuspecting motorist or taxi owner. Those casings imported under permit are not necessarily finding their way to the legitimate retreaders, neither are all the containers checked at the port of entry.

In Europe the minimum legal tread depth of a tyre is 1,5mm, as opposed to the South African requirement of 1mm, and we have reason to believe that these tyres are being "dumped" on the South African market. A certain percentage may be of acceptable standard but large numbers could be sub-standard.

In addition to stricter import control an education programme needs to be put in place, informing the public of the need to exercise caution when purchasing second-hand or retread tyres, as well as the correct tyre size and tyre pressure for the particular type of vehicle. Taxi owners/drivers are encouraged to obtain the booklet "Taxi tyres for 10 to 16 seaters" published by the SA Bureau of Standards.

Remember - tyres are the only small areas of contact between the road and the vehicle, in either dry or wet weather conditions.


Useful hints

The first priority before any trip is undertaken, is to check vehicle safety. All lights and indicators, windscreen wipers, brakes, steering, exhaust system and tyres should be carefully examined for faults. Motorists unsure or concerned about the roadworthiness of their vehicles, can have a pre-holiday technical examination done at any AA Technical Centre throughout South Africa - with the examination undertaken at a nominal fee.

Motorists are advised to always carry a spare fan belt and radiator hose in the boot - even if the vehicle has been given a clean bill in a technical inspection. These could save time and money in the event of a breakdown, and it is also advisable to carry a spare ignition key.

It is also advisable before leaving on a long journey to check insurance policies. Motor vehicles, householder, houseowner and life assurance policies should be in order.

Newspaper and milk deliveries should be canceled and provision made for the care of pets. As a further precaution, travellers should inform the nearest police station that they will be away from home.

Families travelling an unfamiliar route must plan their journey. The AA offers members a wide range of route maps, town plans, brochures and road reports. Individually planned itineraries are available to members on request. It also makes good sense to use major routes and not back roads - even if they cut travelling distance.

The AA administers the SOS system installed by the Department of Transport on major highways. SOS telephones are spaced at two kilometer intervals and help is only a call away.

While traveling, motorists should ensure their own safety, and that of their families and other road users, by using seatbelts and maintaining a two second following distance. Following distances must be increased at night, in foggy or rainy conditions and when the road is wet.

Fatigue and eye strain can be avoided by making frequent rest stops. Driver changes at rest stops are also advisable. It is advisable to include safety breaks every two hours or 200 kilometres, as this will reduce fatigue levels.

Cars should be locked when unattended, with no valuables inside the vehicle where they can be seen by passers-by. Never leave children or pets in a locked car - the heat built-up in the interior can cause heat exhaustion or heat stroke and can be fatal.

It is also important that motorists carry their drivers licence at all times. This is required by legislation.

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