According to the Automobile Association (AA), South Africans have become complacent about road traffic statistics, considering festive season road deaths an annual expectation. But on the other side of stats are people - something we have become acutely aware of during this Covid-19 pandemic: Mothers, fathers, children, breadwinners leaving behind families, dependants, widows, and orphans.
“It is time that we, as South African road users, take road safety into our own hands. We need to do whatever we can to safeguard the lives of our loved ones and other road users and keep ourselves safe on the road,” says Lubin Ozoux, CEO of Sumitomo Rubber South Africa, manufacturer of Dunlop, Sumitomo and Falken tyres. “We need to start thinking about the road accident statistics as real people who could possibly have survived if a driver, or pedestrian had taken greater care before taking to the road.” Ozoux says that as road users there are a few basic things that we are all aware of that can help reduce the number of road accident fatalities.
These include not drinking alcohol before getting behind the wheel or walking on the road, and not texting or speaking on a mobile phone while driving. Doing regular vehicle maintenance checks, including assessing the only part of a vehicle to touch the road surface, the tyres, is equally important to road safety, he says. “A few basic vehicle maintenance activities can help keep you safer on the road,” Ozoux says. “Every time you visit a filling station to get fuel, make it a habit to also get your tyre pressure checked, and preferably do this first thing in the morning when tyres are still cold and will give a truer pressure reading. You may also ask the attendant to check your oil and windscreen wiper water. That way you know that the basics are covered on a regular basis.”
Ozoux offers the following guidelines for keeping on top of tyre maintenance, part of maintaining a road worthy vehicle:
* Ensure that the tread wear indicator on each of your tyres is well below the level of the tread. The legal limit for tyre tread in South Africa is 1.6mm and most reputable tyre brands have a tread wear indicator seated in all of the grooves between the raised treads of the tyre. This needs to remain below the tread across the entire breadth of the surface of the tyre. Tread helps maintain grip on the road. Reduced tread results in decreased ability to grip the road and come to a rapid halt when required. Inspect the sidewalls for damage regularly.
* Under- or over-inflation of a tyre, driving over uneven surfaces or through potholes and impact caused by hitting kerbs or objects like rocks on the road can all lead to sidewall damage. Checking that the sidewalls are intact, that no cuts or abrasions are present, and that no fabric is visible will help prevent blowouts or other tyre failures, which could result in the loss of control of the vehicle, from occurring. Tyres will wear from use. Uneven tread wear can be caused by a number of factors, such as misalignment of the wheels.
* Having the wheel alignment checked, especially if you feel a pull on your steering, and having tyres rotated every 8 000 kms to 10 000 kms or at least once a year, will help extend the safe for use lifespan of your tyres.
* Making sure that when you replace your tyres, that you do so through a reputable dealer is also essential to the road safety of others as well as getting the best-suited tyre for your vehicle and specific road usage requirements. Unscrupulous resellers may resell sub-standard, illegal waste tyres to the unsuspecting public. Reputable dealers will not only slash the side wall of any waste tyre but will also ensure correct waste disposal.
Comply with the rules of the road. Stop when required, observe speed limits, and make sure that your vehicle and tyres are in the best condition possible whenever you consider getting onto the road. Not only will this safeguard you from a possible traffic offence fine, it will also go a long way in helping keep you safe on the road. Stay focussed. Take regular breaks on long journeys to avoid becoming over-tired.
Avoid unnecessary distractions by keeping youngsters entertained. Let them listen to the enthralling children’s podcast series “Are we there yet?” brought to you by Dunlop in partnership with the NGO Book Dash. Available on all major podcast platforms and the MyTyres app, the local stories in four South African languages are sure to keep your little ones busy helping you to stay focussed on the road ahead.
“All road users have a responsibility to do whatever is necessary to make our roads safer,” Ozoux says. “We can all play our part in reducing the number of lives lost and families destroyed as a result of road accident fatalities. Let’s take the road safely in 2021 and beyond.”