FESTIVE SEASON SAFETY TIPS: DON’T SAY I DIDN’T TELL YOU…

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Don’t drink and drive. There is a general increase in the consumption of alcoholic beverages. In Africa in general and Lesotho specifically, there is an excitement mood during this period. The windfalls in terms of the 13th cheque gives the people some extra income to spend, and alcohol gets a fair share of it. There is also a break from work as most companies allow people to go for a break and recharge for the coming year. Now the challenge is that the increased number of drinkers, including first-timers and all are road users. Rowdy passengers signing and of cause not giving the driver much opportunity to listen to other road users. The intoxicated drivers tend to relax, and speeding becomes unnoticeable. The unfortunate part is that your insurance policy will not pay the claim when you get involved in an accident, particularly if you were intoxicated with alcohol. The argument is that when you are drunk your judgement and reaction to emergency situations is compromised. My advice will be to use the cab during your drinking sprees. Alternatively, within your group of friends identify a non-alcoholic driver.  Even the brewery company Maloti Mountain Brewery of late is advising us not to drink and drive through its adverts.

The appalling state of roads. The road network is good, but the condition of most of the streets at the moment is significantly compromised due to the rains. There are a few roads without potholes and others even have “dish holes” dangerously positioned. There are two culprits, the water authority and the road authority. As of the water authority they dig up holes to repair pipes and attend to emergencies but sadly they take forever to fill up or complete the work. The warning signs end up falling and invisible and this you must be very attentive. There is a perilous hole along Mabote Police Road, just as you drive past the Police Station, and now one vehicle struggles to pass that spot. Both lanes of the road were affected. With this festive season, there will be more people who will be using the road because it leads to a watering hole. A road to Limkokwing as you start to drive up or downhill the same scenario obtains. There are numerous examples along the city roads, and that poses a danger to you and your vehicle. There were also a few barricades that were constructed in the middle of the streets to manage traffic. Unfortunately, the warning signs do not exist, and of course, there has been some casualty.

The advice is to drive at very low speeds all the time and if possible, avoid night driving in the area you are not familiar with. Hitting these objects during the night might end up with large losses. Now although your insurance policy will pay claims relating to damages to the body of the vehicle, most of the insurance policies do not pay claims to tyre damages due to the potholes unless the incident resulted into the other parts of the vehicle is damaged. By the way, the maximum speed is 50Km per hour in and around Maseru. The primary cause of accidents in Lesotho is the overdriving the terrain, so combined with the current state of roads you wouldn’t dare drive above the regulated speed.       

Some traffic lights are not working in the city, and this is a risk if you are assuming otherwise. It would help if you increased your vigilance because not all road users are conversant with the stop sign rules. Some know the rules, but they are not interested in observing that. We all know the culprits, four + 1, they are always in a rush to get the next customer at any cost. If you can avoid the roads that perennially have malfunction traffic lights. There are a number of traffic lights that needs some attention. The traffic lights regulate movement, and when they are not working, it becomes a traffic jungle. There are untamed road users, so avoid the routes with no traffic lights. Some traffic lights are working, but they are on dangerous spots in terms of theft by those who smash windows and grab your items. At these traffic lights anything after 21 hour in the night, some drivers don’t stop, and if you assume that they will stop, you may end up in an accident. Avoid the places that tend to be deserted and be vigilant in dark routes.                                                                                                                                                                                                                Rainy season requires a higher standard of vehicle roadworthiness. Service your vehicles to avoid accidents. There are small things like windscreen wipers, indicators, headlights and brake pads. The tyres should be at the regulated tyre tread depth. Did you know that your insurance policy will not respond to accidents as a result of your vehicle road unworthiness? Check the tyre treads and avoid accidents for failure to stop, and it is worse during this festive season because we have lots of rain. It is also that time that the volume of traffic increases as our relatives working in South Africa and other countries come back home. The travelling will again happen between Maseru and other districts. Vehicles should be checked for any faults and be rectified and the vehicle in a good working condition. Keeping of a safe following distance in adverse weather patterns of say 2-seconds is a crucial rule to observe. This allows you to stop the vehicle before you bump into the vehicle in front.      

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Break-ins at the shopping malls. There is an increase in the theft of items in the parked vehicles. This is very rampant at Maseru shopping mall, and part of the reason is that there are no cameras for the parking bays. The parking is vast, and the number of security guards is not adequate. This must be addressed, of course, by the management company. Pioneer mall security seems to be tighter and gives me a bit of comfort as a shopper. The viable advice is that you do not leave your valuable items in the direct view. If you have a lockable trunk, you have to make use of it for things such as the laptops, cameras and handbag.  The insurance policy for the theft of these items considers how they were placed when the robbery happened. The claim of the broken glass will be covered if you have insurance but the things If not locked away in the trunk your claim may be declined.

Vehicle Hijackings. A friend of mine had a bad experience two weeks back. After a great festive hang, out whilst they were opening the gate, the vehicle was taken at gunpoint. There are two possibilities for how it happened. She may have been followed from the hang out place, or the hijackers were waiting to pounce on her. The most valuable advice is to remain calm and oblige your vehicle is covered by the insurance policy. Your life is more important than a vehicle, and any form of resistance can be fatal. When you are driving off from the drinking spots, check out who is following you. Drive-in straight to the police if you observe anything suspicious.

Mentally disturbed person smashing vehicles A client of mine experienced the smashing of the view mirror by a mentally ill person. This happened, whilst stationary at a red traffic light along Kingsway. So, watch out for such people, and the best way is to remain calm because if you react, you may cause much more significant damage to your vehicle. If you observe from a distance safely avoid by changing lanes when it is safe to do so. Otherwise, close up your windows all the time.

Drive defensively? Driving to reach your destination is always your task, and that requires your vigilance. You have to anticipate the behaviour of other road users in the front and at the back of your vehicle. During the festive season, everyone spirit is high. Don’t use routes that are congested already unless you really need to go there. The Bus Stop area is where the rank for buses and taxes known as 4+1, and driving in that area can be a nightmare.  They are many people walking up and down and not easy to drive fast. Avoid such routes with high density of traffic.

Otherwise, wishing you a merry festive season and safe drive. Just remember to get you insurance paid up. Happy holidays.

Amon Rupiya is an experienced insurance practitioner qualified with a Masters in Insurance and Risk Management. He writes in his personal capacity and views does not represent the company he is working for. Please note that the content provided in this article is intended as an overview and as general information only. Before making any decisions based on the information provided in this article, please use your discretion and seek advice from an insurance broker or agent. Feedback and questions send email to amonfield@gmail.com