Underinflated tyres increase the likelihood of a serious accident, incur a higher level of wear and increase fuel consumption
Tyre pressure plays an important role in ensuring your vehicle’s overall safety performance, handling, comfort and fuel efficiency when driving – and has a direct correlation to the longevity of the tyres.
The recommended tyre pressure for your vehicle is based on a wide range of factors, including the overall weight of the vehicle, the performance characteristics and the construction of the tyre. Tyre pressures should always be checked against the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended pressures when the tyres are cold, as the air contained in the tyre expands as the vehicle is driven and heat builds up.
Incorrect tyre pressures can lead to a reduction in dynamic stability, longer braking distances, a higher rate of wear, increased rolling resistance which results in higher fuel consumption, along with significantly reduced mileage.
Even more crucially, an underinflated tyre is more likely to fail, as the shoulder of the tyre is exposed to excessive wear and heat build-up, leading to premature failure. Additionally, the tyre pressures need to be adjusted based on the vehicle’s load – particularly when packing for the holiday, and if a trailer or caravan is being towed. And don’t forget the spare wheels!
An overinflated tyre isn’t ideal either, as the contact patch with the road surface is concentrated in the centre of the tread, which causes a much higher rate of wear in the middle of the tyre, and negatively impacts handling and braking performance.
In keeping with Continental’s Vision Zero strategy that aims to reduce and eventually eliminate road traffic collisions, injuries, and fatalities, Continental encourages all motorists and their families to play an active role in role safety this festive season by regularly checking and maintaining their tyres. Check your car’s tyre pressures every two to four weeks, and always before travelling long distances or if you are carrying additional loads. Also, inspect the tread and the sidewalls of the tyres for any unusual wear or damage.
Many vehicles now have integrated tyre pressure monitoring systems that work with wheel sensors and brake systems to alert the driver to a low tyre pressure – so check the pressures are set correctly, and take any tyre pressure warnings seriously.
Although modern safety features – many of which are produced by Continental’s automotive division – such as anti-lock braking systems (ABS), electronic stability control (ESC) and radar-based adaptive cruise control (ACC) are integral to the Vision Zero concept, the most important element in reducing the number of accidents on our roads is the driver and his or her attitude to driving safety.
The condition of the vehicle plays a fundamental role too, and all motorists need to adopt a proactive approach towards safety-critical maintenance. Where necessary, have your car checked by your dealer, service centre, or at your local BestDrive store. Follow these essential tips during your travels this holiday, stay safe, and return rested and healthy in 2021!
Rest before you drive: Have a good night’s rest before heading on any long journey. Around eight hours of sleep is ideal.
Don’t drink and drive: Drunk driving is a major contributing factor in road accidents and deaths in South Africa. Consuming just one or two drinks may put you over the legal limit. It’s simple: if you drink, don’t drive. And if you’re driving, be responsible and don’t drink!
Distractions: Using a phone while driving has rapidly become one of the biggest causes of accidents around the world, and is just as dangerous as drunk driving. Use a Bluetooth car kit if necessary and keep your eyes on the road!
Stop every two hours: Take regular breaks throughout your trip, stopping approximately every two hours. Driver fatigue is one of the leading causes of accidents – so if you’re tired, stop to change drivers or have a rest.
Safety belts: Safety belts must be worn by everyone in the car (both front and rear occupants), at all times. It’s your primary safety device, so don’t take chances! Young children should be strapped into an age-appropriate baby seat or a booster seat.
Speed: Stick to the stipulated speed limits throughout your journey. Speed limits are set with your safety in mind, as well as that of fellow motorists and pedestrians. Rather take it easy and enjoy the journey!
Following distances: Maintain a 3-second following distance from the vehicle ahead, which gives you space to slow down or stop if necessary. If visibility is reduced due to rain or mist, or when driving at night, increase the gap to 6 seconds.
Keep left, pass right: The age-old rule of driving remains an important one, to ensure the smoothest possible flow of traffic, and to reduce congestion and frustration in traffic. Stick to the left lane and use the right lane for passing manoeuvres.
Emergency access: If there’s an accident ahead, keep the shoulder of the road clear so that emergency vehicles can make their way to the scene as soon as possible. Clogging the entire road only leads to further delays – both for the accident victims who may need critical medical care (you never know, it could be your family or friends) and for all of the affected road users.
Tyres: The legal tread depth limit in South Africa is 1 mm, or 1.6 mm if the tyre has an integrated tread wear indicator (TWI). Replace your tyres if they are close to the limit as a worn tyre has a higher risk of aquaplaning, and will result in much longer stopping distances in the wet. Inspect the tyres for any uneven wear, bulges, cuts or abrasions in the sidewall, which could result in premature failure.
Tyre pressures: Adjust your tyre pressures based on the vehicle load. Increase the pressure according to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations if towing a caravan, trailer or loading the vehicle – and remember to check pressures when the tyres are cold. Don’t forget the spare tyre!
Brakes: Your car’s brakes are an essential safety feature and need to be checked and regularly maintained. Have a look at the brake discs and pads – if they show excessive wear, or you notice the brakes are noisy or less effective than usual, then have them checked.
Lights: Inspect and test all the vehicle lights, and those of a trailer or caravan, to make sure you have maximum visibility and can be seen by other motorists.
Windscreen: If your windscreen is cracked or damaged have it repaired or replaced, as it may compromise your vision – especially when driving at night. Check that the windscreen wipers are working properly.
Engine bay: Check all the fluid levels, including engine oil, radiator coolant (only when the engine is cold), power steering fluid, brake fluid and the windscreen washer bottle.
Regular maintenance: Have your car serviced according to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended intervals (typically between 10 000 and 20 000 km, or annually). Preventative maintenance could make the difference between arriving safely at your destination or being stranded on the side of the road.
Be visible: Around 3 000 pedestrians are killed in South Africa each year. If you’re out on the roads, particularly at night, make sure you are visible to motorists by wearing light-coloured clothing and, ideally, some sort of reflective material.
Stay off the road: Use pedestrian walkways and demarcated road crossings. When crossing a road, check if the drivers have seen you and the vehicle has stopped before proceeding – even at pedestrian crossings or traffic lights.
Trucks: Show consideration: Truck drivers are professionals who are responsible for keeping the wheels of the country’s economy turning. Show them respect, understanding and patience.
Heavy loads: Due to their weight and size, trucks have much longer braking distances than a car. Don’t cut trucks off and then suddenly brake hard in front of them. Plan your overtaking manoeuvres to ensure there is enough space ahead – especially when several vehicles are travelling close together.
Blind spots: Trucks have more and much bigger blind spots than cars. Ensure that you can see far enough ahead, and that the driver can see you, before attempting to overtake. Make sure there is sufficient space to pull into your lane once the pass is completed. Avoid tailgating a truck, as you will be invisible to the driver, and will be severely restricting your view of oncoming road and traffic conditions.
Rain: Wet and rainy conditions require greater caution. Along with needing much longer stopping distances, visibility is significantly reduced. Trucks kick up a lot of water and spray which further impedes visibility for following traffic. Only pass when you can see clearly ahead. If in doubt, wait until the next safe opportunity.
Turning circles: Due to their length, trucks require more space and have much larger turning circles than cars – sometimes having to use two lanes to negotiate a tight corner. Keep this in mind at traffic lights and intersections, and when following behind a large vehicle.
Article Written by: Jiminy-Ann Bosman
Photo credit: Jiminy-Ann Bosman