Peak times and other useful advice: how to stay safe on the roads this Easter

South Africa’s roads are particularly busy during Easter, but there are things you can do to keep yourselves safe. File picture: Jacques Naude / Independent Media.

South Africa’s roads are particularly busy during Easter, but there are things you can do to keep yourselves safe. File picture: Jacques Naude / Independent Media.

Published Mar 27, 2024


As with the Festive Season, South Africa’s roads become a very busy space during the Easter period as South Africans hit the road for a mini break from their daily routines.

Likewise, it is also a particularly dangerous time to be on our roads. Last year saw a tragic 225 fatalities over Easter, an increase of almost 40% versus 2022, according to the RTMC.

That’s why it’s extremely important to pay attention and drive like your life is at stake.

Avoid peak hours if you can

Peak travel hours over the long weekend include Thursday (12pm to 9pm), Friday (6am to 10am) and Monday (10am to 9pm). According to advanced driving school MasterDrive, more than 3,000 cars per hour can pass through toll gates during these periods.

Avoiding travel on these days is difficult for obvious reasons. But if driving cannot be avoided, MasterDrive CEO Eugene Herbert advises motorists to adjust their departure time to avoid these peak traffic traffic whenever possible.

“More cars on the road increases your chances of encountering reckless drivers, is tiring and requires greater concentration, and increases your chances of coming across fatigued drivers or those driving under the influence.

“Choosing to drive during daylight hours a day earlier or later can help you arrive safely and make the trip less stressful. Be cautious, however, of driving at night. This is when one is most likely to encounter drivers trying to (among others) evade law enforcement or vehicles that are not roadworthy,” Herbert added.

Seatbelts for children

A seatbelt should never be sacrificed with children. “Every holiday period we emphasise the importance of buckling up children. Simply do not skip the seatbelt so they can lie flat on the seat or move around freely.

“In a collision your child becomes a projectile. They will lurch through the window or doors that break or open or they will be thrown into the seat in front of them. The impact of their body hitting the front seat occupant can kill the person sitting in that seat. Children must wear seatbelts, no matter how much they protest,” Herbert advises.

This very much applies to adults, too. Studies around the world have shown that seatbelts can reduce the probability of being killed by 40 to 50% for drivers and front seat passengers, and by about 25% for passengers in rear seats.

WATCH: This is what happens when you and your passengers don’t wear seatbelts

How to deal with reckless drivers

It goes without saying that you should never overtake when it’s not completely safe to do so, and especially not when your view of oncoming traffic is limited.

Reckless overtaking accounts for a high percentage of fatalities on South African roads, says the Automobile Association (AA).

When you’re out on the road, watch out for speedsters or dangerous overtaking and quickly identify the safest course of action. This could be slowing down to create space between yourselves or moving off the road to avoid a collision.

“Rather let reckless drivers pass and do not engage with them, no matter your frustration levels. If you have a passenger, they should call law enforcement to protect other road users as well,” says Herbert.

There is a lot more that you can do to keep you and your family safe on the roads this Easter period, and at all times. Here are some very useful driving tips from the AA:

Check rear-view mirrors often

The rear-view mirror promotes an alert driving experience by allowing drivers to see behind their vehicle without turning their head. By checking the rear-view mirror, drivers can monitor traffic and prepare for any potential dangers.

Share the road

Crashes can be avoided by identifying and sharing the road with other users. Always recognise that pedestrians are especially vulnerable because they do not have the same protection drivers have in a vehicle. Drivers have a responsibility to take every precaution to avoid hitting pedestrians.

Keep a safe following distance

A safe following distance is one of the golden rules of being a smart driver. It helps maintain a steady speed and gives time and space to decelerate or accelerate smoothly when needed. It also provides an escape route if needed.

Hands off the phone, eyes on the road

Anything that diverts attention away from the main task of driving is a distraction. Anything that takes a driver’s eyes off the road and which diverts a driver’s attention from the road is dangerous. This includes cellphone usage, eating, or doing anything other than focussing on the road ahead.

Stop when tired

Tired drivers have slower reaction times and suffer from reduced attention, awareness, and ability to control their vehicles. Research suggests driving tired can be as dangerous as drunk driving. The AA again urges all drivers to stop every two hours or every 200km to stretch their legs and get fresh air before continuing with their trips.

Avoid the temptation to speed

Speeding is responsible for almost 30% of all fatal road crashes. It is more important to get to a destination than how long it takes to get there. Remember, the speed limit is not a target!

IOL Motoring