What it costs to travel safely this Easter

With the Easter weekend almost upon us, the issue of safe travel is a pressing one. According to Old Mutual, accidental death claims over the holiday period increased by about 8% from 2009 to 2010.

Heavier traffic volumes are to blame, of course—the Road Traffic Report notes an increase from 611 554 vehicles in 2009 to 670 189 vehicles during 2010.
The average increase was about 58 635 vehicles (9,6%). During the 2010 Easter weekend alone 70 fatal crashes were recorded, with 105 fatalities. While this is down from 197 deaths in 2009, it’s still a high figure.

Is your car roadworthy?
It’s important to note that although 80% of crashes were due to driver error, defective or unroadworthy vehicles accounted for 9% of the total. With this in mind, you should consider carrying out a roadworthy check of your vehicle before of a long-distance trip. Is your car up to the journey?

According to the AA, at the very least you should check headlights, indicators, stop lights, tail lights, windscreen wiper blades, brakes, steering, tyres (including your spare), your exhaust system and any possible fuel leaks.

What will this cost you? The good news is, any garage, fitment centre or dealership should be able to perform a basic check at no charge, depending on what’s required.

The Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI) has been conducting free vehicle checks—you still have until April 21 to take RMI up on this. Phone numbers are: Johannesburg (011) 789-2542; Pretoria (012) 348-9311; Port Elizabeth (041) 364-0070; Cape Town (021) 939-9440; Durban (031) 266-7031; or Bloemfontein (051) 430-3294.

If you’d like to have a really comprehensive check, the AA’s Gary Ronald recommends vehicle-testing expert Dekra. A full safety check will cost you R199 only. This is a small price to pay to ensure your car is going to get you safely to your destination.

Helen Szemerei, CEO of IntegriSure, says that one of the legacies of the financial crisis has been motorists holding on to their vehicles for much longer, so manufacturers’ warranties may have lapsed. Remember that extended warranties are available, as well as a variety of service and maintenance products. It can be very expensive to purchase this kind of vehicle service out of your own pocket, so use the bulk-buying power afforded by these plans and make sure you can at least maintain your vehicle.

“There are tyre policies you can purchase for the replacement of your tyres,” says Szemerei. “Ask your car manufacturer about this and other products when you purchase your car, and also ask your insurer, through your broker, about such value-adds. Along with faulty engines, problem tyres are the cause of a lot of accidents. We all know how smooth tyres behave in wet weather.”

If all this seems like a lot of unnecessary expense, remember that, with a car, it’s not a question of “if” your tyres age, but “when”. Replacing car parts later on, paying out of your own pocket, is really not pleasant.

Know your routes
Heavy construction has been taking place on major roads, so if you’re not familiar with alternative routes, try to find out about new routes, potential diversions and possible delays.

Remember to budget for any extra toll costs. In fact, don’t forget to budget for your entire trip. Planning ahead saves money.

If you don’t have an up-do-date map, you can get strip maps, route planners and toll plaza reports from the AA, or you can invest in a GPS. Prices vary, from about R1 000 (the TomTom Start Z.A.) to R4 000 (the Garmin nuvi 3790) or more. For a wide range of GPS prices, visit www.shopbot.co.za.

Are your insurance policies up to date?
Before you leave, check your motor vehicle, household, homeowner’s and life assurance policies. Are the premiums of your existing policies up to date? If not, you may not have cover while you’re on the road.

If you don’t have life and disability cover, look into this as soon as possible as an accident that results in your inability to earn would place a huge financial burden on you and your family. Similarly, life cover protects your family if you’re no longer there to take care of them.

It’s not something you want to think about when you set out on holiday—which is why it’s usually best to put this kind of insurance in place during the year.

In terms of motor vehicle insurance, remember that you can’t insure for a period during which you’ll be exposed to higher risk. Insurance needs to be ongoing, so it’s best to have a policy in place that will be available at all times, not just when you think you may need it most.

“It’s always best to ensure your cover is updated and you’re adequately insured,” cautions Ferdi Booysen, risk product manager at Old Mutual.

Szemerei agrees. “Comprehensive insurance is best because it covers damage, not just third-party and theft,” she says. “Remember that even if you don’t drive an expensive vehicle, you may hit one and be liable for damages.”

But you can also save by reducing the value of your vehicle to its current market-related retail value on your policy. It’s pointless paying a higher premium if your car’s value has depreciated and the vehicle is now worth R150 000, not R225 000.

“There is such a thing as over-insurance and you can definitely save here,” says Szemerei. “Your broker can assist you with this.”

Also check you’re covered if you’re travelling in other countries. Standard policies cover sub-Saharan African countries but don’t assume this to be the case—make sure.

“Some 4x4 players in the industry offer 4x4 cover if you’re travelling in other countries in Africa, but they don’t necessarily cover off-road use and activities, so double-check that, too,” says Szemerei.

Pay attention to road safety campaigns
Road safety campaigns do bring down accident rates and LeadSA’s “Lead With Lights” campaign has been endorsed by the RMI. International research shows that using your headlights during daylight hours can help to reduce accidents by as much as 37%, so join in and use your headlights when you travel.

Arrive Alive’s holiday road safety tips are also well worth reading: click here

The hidden costs of accidents
We’ve already mentioned the costs of disability and the potential financial hardships a family can face in the event of death. But even a small accident can be costly. Yes, you may be covered by insurance, but if you’re stranded on the roadside and it’s getting dark, you’ll have to look at the costs of tow-trucks, possible overnight accommodation and emergency repairs to your vehicle—none of which you’ve budgeted for.

Accidents are inconvenient and expensive, so drive defensively (which can save you money), make sure your passengers (particularly children) are calm and not over-excited, and don’t allow yourself to be distracted or to drive if you’re fatigued. Above all, don’t speed to get to your destination.

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