Stay Safe Over the Easter Break [opinion]

The Easter weekend is almost upon us and soon the great Namibian holiday migration will be throwing a spanner (or lack thereof ) and maybe a flay tyre or two into your traveling plans.

Perhaps those of thousands of other road users too, who you’ll have to contend with, as everyone hurries to soak up some sun or to get to the village or farm for that home grown traditional meal their soul has ached for since December.

As usual, police and traffic control will be in panic mode, with neither the numbers nor the resources needed to contain the havoc on our roads. So in much the same way that we take responsibility for our own safety at home, you put need to your vehicle through your own private little roadblock right now, so that you have time to sort out any problems you may find before it’s time to hit the long road.

This will give you peace of mind for your journey and not see you stranded at the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, with no cellular reception, while everyone else is cosily enjoying their hot cross buns and Easter eggs.

Top Revs put together a checklist list…

Lights

Reverse up close to a light-coloured wall after sunset and look over your shoulder as you hit the brakes and operate the indicators for a quick, easy and foolproof tail-light check that doesn’t require getting out of the car or the assistance of a second person.

Then turn round and do the same for the front indicators and headlights – main beam and brights. Make sure that headlamps are adjusted correctly – as a rough guide, the upper edge of the (dipped) light beam should be no higher than the bonnet of the car.

Walk around the car and make sure that all body panels, mountings and accessories – including the tow bar, if you have one – are properly fastened and tight.

Check all the windows for cracks or small chips a damaged windscreen not only reduces visibility, but also has limited ability to protect you in aerse conditions or in a crash. Make sure to check that the wiper blades and their mechanisms are in good working order.

Wheels and Tyres

Open the boot (before you pack a long weekend’s worth of luggage in there) and check that the spare wheel is in good condition, inflated to the correct pressure and that the tyre actually has some tread on it. Check that you have the right jack (make sure everything is there, for example the hand crank) and a wheel-spanner that fits your wheel fastenings.

Check that all tyres are inflated to the right pressure and have at least three milimetres of tread all the way round, (use your hands to feel the inside of the tyre as this area could go unspotted) yes, the law says one milimetre but anything less than three will not keep rainwater from getting between the tyre and road at 120kmh. When that happens, its called aquaplaning and it’s the automotive equivalent of trying to run across an ice-rink in worn-out takkies.

Visit your local wheel and tyre workshop and be sure to get your wheel balancing and alignment done before you set off. This will make sure the tyres are making proper contact with the road surface and they’ll check if you have any bald patches or worn bits.

Under the Bonnet

Check the oil level – twice, at least five days apart. If you can see the difference, have a mechanic check whether the car is leaking or burning oil and take the appropriate action. This will save you a world of heartache and you won’t have to check your oil levels at every stop along the way.

Check the coolant system when the engine is cold. Pop off the radiator cap and check that it seals properly and check that the level of coolant are up to the minimum mark on the plastic reservoir.

If not, replenish with clean tap water that has stood for at least 24 hours for the chlorine to evaporate or, if you’re so inclined, a 5050 mix of anti-freeze and distilled battery water – both available at decent service stations.

Check that the coolant is clean if the reservoir looks like it’s full of mud, chances are the radiator is too, have it flushed before you leave town.

Check the windscreen washer bottle there’s nothing worse than peering into the setting sun through a windscreen coated with bug goo smeared by your windshield wipers. If it’s low, fill it with clean tap water and one small squirt of dishwashing liquid.

Check that the level of brake fluid in the master cylinder is up to the minimum mark.

If not, replenish from a fresh bottle of brake fluid and, when you get back from your Easter break, discard whatever’s left. Once a sealed container is opened, brake fluid absorbs water vapour from the air and it rapidly becomes dangerous to use, storing it for next time is not a good idea.

If the battery is not of the sealed type, open each cell and eyeball the level: if the top edge of the plates is above the water, replenish with the distilled water you bought for the radiator (no antifreeze this time). The actual level is not critical, as long as the plates are covered.

Check all the belts you can see as a general rule, if you can move it more than the width of your thumb, it needs adjustment and if you can see any visible fraying at all, that’s a disaster waiting to happen – have it replaced and save yourself a lot of heartache.

Visually check the engine compartment for leaks and add up how many kilometres you will drive before you get back home. If it will take you past the next service point, have the car serviced before you leave.

Brakes

Find a deserted road and once your car is rolling at about 60kmh and hit the brakes as hard as you can.

If the car pulls to one side, the steering wheel vibrates, or you hear any knocking or grinding noises, have the brakes, suspension and wheel alignment checked. If the car rocks excessively after a violent stop, have the shock absorbers checked.

Exhaust System

Listen under the car for any puffing noises coming from anywhere else rather than the exhaust pipe outlet. A damaged exhaust system not only cuts power and increases fuel consumption, but if it leaks exhaust fumes into the cabin it can knock you out before you even smell it. At 120kmh this can be very hazardous to your health.

Emergency Kit

Keep a decent-sized flashlight and a safety triangle in the car (not under a long weekend’s worth of luggage in the boot) to warn oncoming traffic when your car has broken down. Don’t rely on your hazard lights, if your car has an electrical short they may not be working.

Check that your insurance and your breakdown plan are up to date and keep all those emergency numbers on a card in the glove compartment. Yes, we know they’re on speed dial on your smart new phone but your speed dial is worthless once your phone is dead or damaged.

Check that You are 100%

Your car is not the only thing that needs to be roadworthy. The most important safety component in any vehicle is the one holding the steering wheel.

Get enough sleep before you start a long road trip. Fatigue is a major cause of road accidents, so if you’re not feeling well, or you’re sleepy, but you insist on driving, you’re not only endangering your own life, but also that of countless others on the road.

Take a break every two hours and get out of the car for a stretch or to jog in place as this will help keep you alert. Driving through the night isn’t heroic, it’s stupid and your haste may cause you to not make it at all.

While you’re on the road, keep your energy levels up by snacking on healthy fruit and other nutritious food and staying hydrated with water. Sugary junk-food snacks and high caffeine may give you a quick boost but the sudden sugar slump will hit you hard and leave you worse off than before.

Make sure you have some eye protection against sharp light and glare. This will help your eyes not to take too much strain. Remember, sight is your most important sense on the roads.

Plan your Journey

Know where you’re going. Know where you’re staying and draw up a budget, this will reduce family stress and will let you concentrate on driving.

Above all, be sober and considerate to other drivers. Stick to the speed limit and remember there are lives at stake and in every one of our hands.

Source : The Namibian