By Wilma Bedford
Road accidents in South Africa are of the highest in the world: Worldwide there are 24.1 deaths per 100 000 road users, while in South Africa the figure is 31.9 per 100 000. In South Africa road deaths are caused by drunk driving, speed, distracted drivers, reckless driving, potholes and worn brakes and tyres. Collisions are the main cause of road deaths and the drivers are mainly 15-29 years old.
There has been talk about including road safety in the school curriculum, therefore the long road to your holiday at the coast is a golden opportunity to teach your children in a practical way about traffic rules, traffic infringements and safety and how to become save drivers. Remember that your children’s driving habits will one day reflect your own driving capability.
Teach your children about barrier lines and determine when it would be safe to overtake and when not. Show them where a driver acts correctly and what the consequences are/might be of reckless driving and overtaking. Don’t get cross if your children point out your mistakes. Let your children wave a friendly thank you to a considerate or a slow or heavy vehicle that makes way for you to pass. Avoid road rage. Forbid rude signs and abusive language and explain that nothing will change the situation, but could rather have catastrophic consequences for both drivers. Act defensively and considerately.
Talk about speed and why there are speed limits. Give your children statistics, as clear proof that speed can cause your vehicle to go out of control if, for example, a tyre bursts or an animal or irresponsible driver or pedestrian blocks your path, regardless of whether or not you are driving a safe vehicle model. Speed also decreases reaction time or increases the severity of and injuries in collisions. Talk about braking distance at a certain speed.
Now is also the opportunity for a serious talk about seat-belts and why passengers on the back seat should also buckle up. Statistics prove that seat-belts for front passengers decrease fatal accidents with 70% in a head-on collision and back-seat passengers have a 75% chance of survival. Seat-belts prevent passengers from being flung out of a rolling vehicle. Only 40% of South Africans use seat-belts (4 out of 10). Buckle up, it’s the law!
For the family, stopping at the filling station is a chips and cool drink occasion, but talk beforehand about vehicle maintenance. What should be checked (water, oil, tyres) and what damage could be caused to a vehicle if this is not done.
When filling up with fuel, let your children calculate the cost per km, how many km per litre you have driven and how much it will cost to reach your destination.
When your children have learnt about road safety, it might be time to talk about things that could break a driver’s concentration, for example cell phone calls, loud music, fighting in the back seat – now you have the opportunity to voice your frustrations and admonish, or mete out punishment if the driver is being compromised.
If you are pulled over by a traffic officer, be polite and cooperate; your children learn future behaviour from you. If you have made a mistake, accept it; your children will learn that transgression comes at a price.