It's that time of year again when South Africans start to plan their festive season holidays, which often entail a lengthy road trip.
Sadly it's also the time of year when tragic road deaths increase as a result of all the extra mileage and extra traffic on main routes.
It is easy to get distracted on long roads that seem to go on forever. File photo: Antoine de Ras. Credit: Independent Newspapers
That's why we can't reiterate enough how important it is to do what it takes to be safe out there. Taking heed of the following tips, disseminated by the AA, is a really good place to start.
Preparation is key
Make sure you know the exact route you will be taking to get to your destination and that you understand the estimated length of the journey. Having up to date route information is essential. The AA's free online route maps could prove handy here.
Consider travel times
If you are planning a long journey, such as Johannesburg to Cape Town, you may be tempted to leave home before the sun is up.
Be aware that the period around dawn is potentially the most dangerous time to be driving - especially for someone who is not used to it. If you are usually still asleep at that time of the day you may experience severe drowsiness, so try to avoid travelling at this time.
If you are on the road, rather pull over, stop and watch the sunrise.
Split long distances
For long journeys it is recommended to stop half way and stay over. Consider this to be part of your holiday as you get to explore a different town, and not an inconvenience that delays you.
Make sure you have planned ahead and made the necessary arrangements for this stop over; you don't want to leave this up to chance. It is also a good idea to confirm that the stop over accommodation has facilities to keep the kids entertained such as a swimming pool or play area.
Avoid quiet, long stretches
It is easy to get distracted on long roads that seem to go on forever. Make sure to plan your journey carefully so that the most quiet and potentially dangerous stretches are travelled during the day.
Take plenty of rests
As a rule of thumb you should stop at least every two hours or 200km; even a short stop to stretch your legs can help you concentrate on the next leg of the journey.
Do not get caught out with an empty fuel tank on a quiet piece of road. When planning, you will also need to take into account the distances between petrol stations.