Winter makes driving even more dangerous


As if poor road conditions, people driving under the influence, driving without licences, or talking on cell phones while driving aren’t dangerous enough – winter adds more hazardous obstacles that can cause fatal accidents.

On Friday afternoon the Vaal Triangle suffered another terrible loss when 13 vehicles were involved in a fatal car pile-up on the R59 (Sybrand van Niekerk Road between Vaalpark and Vereeniging). Four people lost their lives and 23 were injured when thick smoke generated by a veld fire made it impossible for drivers to see what was ahead on the highway.

Terrible as this is, fog and mist will also be experienced during winter. Driving in fog/mist – or thick smoke – requires special caution. Environmental road hazards like this are classed as the most dangerous. It is challenging to drive in heavily congested traffic, but you should be even more vigilant when sharing the road in these conditions as visibility can deteriorate in seconds.

According to Wikipedia – fog is a cloud that is in contact with the ground. Although mist and fog look like smoke, they are actually tiny drops of water floating in the air. They can be described as clouds that have formed at ground level. Fog is distinguished from mist only by its density, as expressed in the resulting decrease in visibility: fog reduces visibility to less than 1 km, whereas mist reduces visibility as well but not to the extent that fog does.

During cold weather you can expect to find fog early in the morning, particularly if the road lies in an area where there is plenty of moisture or near a river – conditions that are a part of the Vaal Triangle at large. The high accident rates in smoke or fog/mist are generally due to bad visibility, but drivers who fail to change their driving habits in these circumstances play a large role.

When driving in smoke/fog, reduce your speed and turn on your headlights. Do not use your high beam headlights during fog. The bright light affects your vision by creating a reflection of the mist, which lessens your ability to see while driving. Always control your speed – you need to allow for enough space between your car and the one in front of you.

Think about how far you can see and how long it will take you to stop. Use the edge of the road as a guide rather than the centre line, to avoid running into oncoming traffic or becoming distracted by their headlights. But most importantly, never stop in the middle of the road. You will be rear-ended.

The golden guidelines should be: If you cannot see, don’t drive! Try to move away from the vicinity of veld fires and obey the guidance of traffic officials.

Also don’t be the cause of this life-threatening danger. Do not throw away burning cigarette ends and do not leave an open fire unattended.

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