It’s no secret that the South African road infrastructure is facing some serious challenges. From crumbling roads to frustrating load shedding and pesky potholes. While the government has a role to play in addressing these issues, individuals can also take proactive steps to make a difference. Here are five practical tips for how road users can deal with our deteriorating road infrastructure, manage load shedding, and dodge those potholes.
1/ Stay informed and engaged
Be aware of infrastructure projects, maintenance plans, and load-shedding schedules ahead of trips. Follow official government websites, social media accounts, and local news outlets to stay up to date with developments and important announcements. Engage with local community forums and associations to voice concerns, share information, and collaborate on initiatives related to road infrastructure. A reliable source to stay up to date is the Traffic SA X (formerly Twitter) account @TrafficSA, informing followers about road conditions and traffic updates throughout the day. This could be a helpful tool when planning routes.
2/ Navigating the potholes
With an estimated 25 million potholes on SA’s roads, according to the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral), it is best to be constantly on the lookout for these obstacles. Make sure that your tyres are inflated according to the manufacturer’s requirements as this creates a cushion of air between the pothole and your vehicle. Always have a clear vision of the surface of the road ahead by keeping a safe following distance from the vehicle in front of you. Keep the windscreen clean and the windscreen wipers in good working condition for driving in the rain and on wet roads. Test your headlights regularly to allow for optimal lighting to see ahead of your vehicle at night. Allow yourself the time and space to react swiftly at the sight of a pothole to avoid driving over it.
While driving, be observant and look out for potholes. Reduce your speed when driving at night, in poor visibility, and on wet roads. It is quite difficult to tell a puddle from a pothole, so it is best to avoid driving through puddles if possible. In areas with poor street lighting, be extra cautious where you may not be able to clearly observe the condition of the road surface far beyond the vehicle.
Actively report potholes in your area to the relevant authorities. You can contact your local municipality to expedite the repairs of potholes.
3/ Prepare for load shedding
Develop a load-shedding plan to mitigate the impact on your daily commute. Keep a back-up power source, such as a portable charger, in your vehicle to ensure you can use your mobile phone to communicate and navigate to an alternate route if traffic lights are affected. Stay updated on load-shedding stages and schedules on your route and plan your travel accordingly. During load shedding, plan your route and leave early to try and avoid heavy traffic periods and congestion. Remember that when the lights are out, the crossing becomes a four-way stop. Be alert to the sequence of vehicles from other directions approaching the intersection. Don’t drive distracted – remain vigilant and focused.
4/ Drive responsibly
Adopt responsible driving habits to minimise the impact on road infrastructure. Observe the speed limit, avoid sudden braking and accelerating, and navigate pothole-ridden road surfaces with caution. By driving responsibly, you reduce the risk of damaging your vehicle and contribute to the longevity of the road surfaces.
5/ Embrace technology
Leverage technology to navigate road infrastructure challenges effectively. Utilise GPS navigation systems on your smartphone to provide real-time traffic updates, alternative routes, and alerts about road conditions.
“While you may be driving cautiously, unfortunate circumstances do occur. When these unpredictable moments happen, vehicle tracking companies like Matrix have created personal safety features such as Roadside Assist and Crash Alert to aid you in an emergency. Assistance is dispatched to your vehicle’s GPS location when roadside assistance is requested or if your car was involved in an accident,” says Ryan Colyn, Sales Director at MiX Telematics Africa. “Matrix uses advanced technology to be right by your side when it matters the most.”
Dealing with deteriorating road infrastructure, load-shedding, and potholes requires a collective effort. By staying informed, actively engaging, and adopting responsible driving behaviours, South Africans can contribute to positive changes. Remember, small changes in your driving habits and pre-emptive approaches can make a difference.