Veld fires in parts of the country are emphasising the importance of planning your route and being able to handle whatever the roads may throw at you. In Port Elizabeth, in particular, the smoke created by fires was so extreme that roads had to be closed. The alternative route that many drivers followed was actually intended for 4×4 drivers creating some frightening and difficult situations for some drivers.

The CEO of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert, says many motorists were lead down the Prince Albert pass. “This is not a route that drivers would choose unless they had experience with 4×4 tracks and a suitable car to traverse these roads. Unfortunately, many drivers were only aware of this once they were well on their way and could not turn around because of the traffic now building behind them.

“The lesson we can learn from this is twofold. Before you change direction, look at the suggested route to confirm that you have both the skills and the vehicle suitable for it. If, however, you do find yourself facing a route that is less than ideal for your experience level and vehicle, there are some basic things you can do to handle the situation as well as possible.”

MasterDrive suggests keeping the following emergency supplies in your car:

  • A first aid kit
  • Water, particularly if you have an older car that is at higher risk of overheating
  • Equipment for tyre emergencies: a spare tyre that has been maintained and is properly pumped, all the tools needed to change the tyre or tyre inflation kits
  • A spare charger or battery pack so that your cellphone battery never runs out
  • A basic toolkit that contains things such as jumper cables, tyre gauge, pliers, screwdriver and any other tools you foresee being essential in an emergency
  • Car emergency escape toolkit that contains something that can break the window in an emergency or cut the seatbelt if necessary.

Another important part of having these items in your car is knowing how to use them. “A tyre inflation kit is useless to someone has never used one and does not know how to do so when they need it. Upskill yourself and learn how to use each item in case you find yourself in an emergency.

“The same applies to your driving skill. Make an effort to gain a basic understanding of different road conditions and how to best handle these. This can include off-road conditions, wet road driving and even driving in snow in certain locations.”

With varying weather conditions in South Africa, drivers need to be prepared for all of these. “Empower yourself by knowing how to handle all road conditions and keep emergency supplies in the car to assist should something go wrong when traversing these conditions,” says Herbert.

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Safe Driving near Veld and Forest Fires