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?
- Always put all children in a proper child seat or harness: In a 50 kilometre an hour crash, a four year old weighing 20 kilograms would hit the first solid object with a force of 400 kilograms. Using a properly fitted child seat or restraint can reduce fatal injuries by up to 75%. So check the child seat in your car. Is it securely fitted? Is it the right size? Are you using it? We know that the kids might complain for a while. But that’s better than the horrific alternative.
- Always place any loose items in the car boot. When a car comes to a sudden halt in an accident, a map book on the back shelf will hit car occupants with the force of a karate kick. A camera becomes a hand grenade, an umbrella a deadly missile. The family shopping can kill. Put them in the boot.
- Always adjust the seat and the head restraint. It is a head restraint not a head rest and it is there to prevent or reduce whiplash which is the most common form of injury in a car crash. Even at speeds as low as ten kilometres an hour there is real danger of serious injury.
- Always wear your seat belt and see that everyone in the car is wearing theirs. We repeat, always use the seat belts.
Tyres should be inspected often, and the following are aspects to look for :
- One-sided wear. A regular smooth band of wear all around the tyre on the inside or the outside of the tread is a sign of incorrect camber. Too much toe-in causes irregular one-sided wear.
- Tread-centre wear. Regular wear of this kind is normally a sign of high tyre pressure. Driving fast for long distances may cause this on low-profile tyres
- Inner- and outer-edge wear. If both inner and outer edges are worn, it usually implies that the tyres have been run at too low a pressure at normal speeds.
- Irregular bald spotting – usually caused by worn shock absorbers, worn suspension bushes, or even loose wheel bearings.
- As speed rises, excessive contact patch deformation leads to a wave being formed in the tread, which generates excessive heat, causing structural damage or even tyre failure.
- Extra flexibility will affect steering behaviour, directional stability, durability and rolling resistance.
- Even occasional low pressure driving, or periodic vehicle overloading, may cause damage that only shows up much later as a blowout.
- Tyre pressures, including the spare, should be checked at least once a week, before the tyres have heated up, ie before 10 km have been driven, using a good pressure gauge.
- Missing valve caps should be replaced, since they are there to prevent dirt from clogging the valves, which could cause a loss of air pressure.
Shock absorbers keep the car’s tyres in contact with the road and enable you to keep control of it. Worn shocks are life threatening and can also cause costly repairs and maintenance on your vehicles.
The Dangers of worn shocks are:
- Poor Road Control: Worn shocks are unable to keep the tyre in contact with the road and the car becomes more difficult to control on the road.
- Worn Tyres: Not being able to keep the tyre in contact with the road, it bounces on the road causing worn flat spots on the tyre which reduces the life of the tyre by a huge margin – expensive.
- Poor Braking: When a car brakes with worn shocks the tyres tend to bounce causing the tyre to loose contact with the road and extends the stopping distance by an extra 2.6m from 80km/h in the dry ! The difference between hitting someone or not. ABS braking systems are even more affected.
- Aquaplaning: Normally this happens when there is some water on the road and your car’s tyres are worn. As you go over the water the tyre lifts off the road and you have complete loss of control.
- Component Wear: Due to the extra movement of the suspension with worn shocks other suspension and steering components to wear out quicker – expensive.
- Headlight Dazzle: Your car will bounce more causing the headlights to blind oncoming traffic
- Fatigue: With the long distances we have to travel in South Africa it’s easy to tire on long journeys –even worse when your car’s shocks are worn as you now have to concentrate more, tiring you more easily
It will not be a valid defense in court to say that you caused an accident because you could not see. If you can’t see – You may not drive!
- Ensure that the windscreen on your vehicle is in perfect condition.
- Fix all chips, cracks and replace the windscreen if necessary.
- Check the effectiveness of your windscreen wipers. Should they not be effective, do not hesitate to replace them.
- Check the water level in the windscreen wiper bottle. The windscreen will require a clean periodically when travelling long distance to remove dirt from the windscreen.
- Do not drive with a seriously cracked windscreen – have it replaced as soon as possible.