The end-of-year holidays mean long road trips for many South Africans. Sadly, this festive time also brings an alarming increase in traffic accidents and fatalities.

Gumtree Autos’ Jeff Osborne says it is possible to make yourself safer on the roads by driving carefully, and by doing five basic safety checks on your vehicle before you head off.

Osborne says that ideally you should get your vehicle fully serviced in advance of the holiday trip but, if that isn’t possible, he says it’s absolutely essential to give your vehicle a once-over in these key areas.

TYRES. A high speed blowout can be fatal. A check at a tyre dealership is free and quick so there’s no excuse for not making sure that you don’t have dangerously worn tyres.

Also check the spare to make sure it is in working order (and that the wheel-changing equipment is all there and functional). Before and during the trip,  check that your tyre pressures are correct – if one is markedly deflated get it immediately assessed.

BRAKES. Brake failure is a common cause of serious accidents. If you concentrate on them, you can tell if your brakes are in trouble. Is there more give in the brake pedal than before? Or a lack of sharpness in the response to braking? Or is there any unhealthy sound coming from the brakes? Any doubts at all should send you straight to a repair outlet for an inspection.

WINDSCREEN. Repair any chips or cracks in the windscreen. It needs to be structurally sound to ensure that it doesn’t shatter when hard detritus hits it at high speed.

WIPERS. Poor visibility is very dangerous. Your wipers must work properly and so must your windscreen demisters. Also make sure there’s water in the system for cleaning he windscreens. And check that both your side mirrors are in working order – they’re mission critical for safe lane-changing.

LIGHTS. Functional lights are important for both for you to see and to be seen. Check all of your lights at night – that’s the only time you can discover if some of them are dim. Remember to check the brake lights.  In most vehicles it’s inexpensive and quick to replace faulty bulbs.

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