You’ve just passed your driver’s licence practical! Yay, that’s fantastic and definitely something that everyone should accomplish if possible. However, there’s only so much that driving instructors are able to teach you, and while it’s great that you also know your K53 etc, trust me, there is so much more you will wish you were taught before you decided to join the driving world. Below are just a few.
You need to think for everyone on the road
This is one is perhaps the most surprising one. You will find that not everyone is paying attention out on the road. Many people are distracted - either by their phones, their kids, the radio, their make-up and more (I’ve actually seen someone read the paper in traffic).
As a result, they will not be focused on the task at hand, which is to just drive, safely. Your job, then is to be able to anticipate what they want to do, could do, might do, etc. Keep an eye on everyone around you at all times. Watch the vehicles closest to you to make sure they aren’t drifting into your lane. You can sometimes anticipate if the vehicle in front or next to you is about to make a quick, last-minute lane change. What’s happening behind you, is Mr Kia Picanto about to rear end because he’s Whatsapping his mate? And in front, no, I mean a few cars in front – is their chaos about to unfold? Keep a close eye on everyone, everywhere, all the time.
Stay cool when stuck in traffic
I’ve heard this from many of my friends who are new or inexperienced drivers - it’s really nerve-wracking being stuck in traffic. Try to keep a cool head and don’t stress out too much. Keep scanning the traffic so that you know what lies ahead, if you know you have to make a turn up ahead, choose your lane early if you can and follow the flow of the traffic. Don’t make erratic lane changes and stick to a safe following distance.
Also, when making a lane change, always check your mirrors. There could be someone on a motorbike coming through the traffic between the vehicles and you could easily hit them if you’re not checking your mirrors.
Be prepared for changing weather conditions
It could be that most of your driving lessons were done only when it was dry, that’s great, but Mzanzi weather is unpredictable and you need to be fully prepared for that. When the skies get a bit grey, put your headlights on so that you are more visible on the road. If you can see that rain is coming, do a quick wiper rinse of your windscreen before the rain hits. That way, you’ve cleared any dirt, dust and road grime from your window and wipers before it rains.
Also, slow down if the roads are wet. Conditions will be a lot more slippery during this time due to the rain, yes, but also remember that rainwater mixes with dirt and oil on the road making for a far more slippery surface, and this means your cars stopping ability will be hampered.
Keep your tyres and brakes in check
This is perhaps one of the most important parts of a vehicle - the tyres and brakes. It’s the combination of the two that keeps you safely glued to the tarmac and not sliding around and into a barrier or another car.
If your car is making odd noises or vibrating while braking, get those brakes checked. If it’s taking long to come to a stop after you brake, get those tyres checked. In fact, keep checking both on a regular basis. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
Careful, good. Hesitant, bad
Being a careful driver is great - we need more of that on our roads, to be honest. But being a hesitant driver is a different story. If you hesitate when taking a gap, it affects the everyone around you. Suddenly they will have to readjust what they were doing to compensate for your hesitation.
If you are hesitant at a traffic circle or a four-way stop, it interrupts the flow of traffic and could actually lead to an accident, possibly even road rage directed at you which might fluster you even more. If it’s your turn to go, then go. If you see a safe gap, take it (indicating when needed, of course). Be confident in your movements and your choices on the road, you’ll find it will make a huge difference.
Be courteous. If you’ve made a blunder in traffic or accidentally cut someone off because you didn’t check your blind spot, raise a hand in acknowledgement of your guilt, don’t just ignore it hoping that it didn’t affect anyone. If someone waves you into a gap, wave back and smile in thanks. Yes, driving in South Africa can be uniquely frustrating but if you follow these guidelines, and if we were all a little more polite and courteous, it might make for more pleasant journeys for all of us.