22 June 2016: The cold, wet and icy weather conditions during the cooler winter months in South Africa increases the likelihood of accidents occurring on public roads. As a result, motorists are urged to conduct appropriate safety checks to ensure that their vehicles are equipped to handle the change in weather and not only ensure the safety of all motorists and passengers, but also mitigate their risk of an insurance claim repudiation.
This is according to Hugo van der Merwe, National Manager: Assessing at MUA Insurance Acceptances, who provides the below tips for motorists to check that their vehicle is in a roadworthy condition to travel in cold and unpredictable weather conditions.
Check the tyre tread
One of the most important checks a motorist can make in winter involves the condition of their motor vehicle’s tyres. A tyre tread below the legal limit of 1mm or level with the tyre treat depth indicator, significantly increases the likelihood of an accident occurring, especially in wet weather. This could also result in an insurance claim being rejected should the insurer determine that the cause of an accident was a direct result of poor tyre maintenance.
As many families travel long distances during the winter school holiday, the driver should check the tyres ahead of the long journey. It is also advisable for all motorists to monitor their tyre tread once every three to four months. Check for both over- and under-inflation, as well as monitoring tyre pressure, tyre wear and wheel alignment as these are all factors that can reduce the operating capacity of ones tires.
Maximise visibility when on the road
When driving in wet, rainy or misty conditions, good visibility is paramount. Something as simple as replacing worn windscreen wiper blades can drastically reduce the chances of an accident occurring. Good wiper blades should completely clear the glass with each swipe. Wiper blades that leave streaks or miss spots are worn and need to be replaced.
The car lights should be in proper working order at all times, but the lights are especially important during the winter months as it is the only means to increase a vehicle’s visibility on dark roads. Any burnt out or dim light bulbs should be replaced as a safety precaution.
Check the condition of the car battery
One of the most common causes of motor vehicle breakdowns in winter is a weak battery. Due to the colder weather conditions, a vehicle’s engine requires more battery power to start-up. Motorists should check the strength of the car battery on a regular basis and replace it if necessary in an effort to avoid the inconvenience of an unplanned breakdown.
One of the most important components of a motor vehicle is the functionality of the brakes. Have the brakes checked by a motor mechanic for any wear and tear to ensure that the vehicle has the best chance of stopping in wet or icy conditions. When a road is wet and slippery, it takes the vehicle somewhat longer to come to a slower stop. It is therefore critical that a vehicle’s brakes work properly in order to brake in time to avoid a collision. Motorists should listening out for any metal to metal or squeaking sounds when applying the brakes and if the brakes do make these sounds, they need to be replaced as soon as possible.
“By conducting the above mentioned safety checks before driving in cold and rainy winter conditions, motorists will mitigate their risk of being involved in an accident and also reduce the likelihood of any insurance claims being repudiated due to their vehicle being deemed unroadworthy,” concludes van der Merwe.