Is It Safe to Drive in South Africa? Road Safety Tips

Is It Safe to Drive in South Africa? Road Safety Tips

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Gear up for a road trip in South Africa with these tips from our travel safety expert. From wildlife and roadside crime to poor rural roads, here’s everything you need to know.

Roads in South Africa are well maintained and easy to navigate, and for the most part travelers who hire a car to explore the country say it’s a piece of cake.

Roads in rural areas present more of a challenge to drivers and can be dangerous. Given the high crime rate in South Africa, drivers are often faced with much more than just traffic hazards.

Keep these safety tips in mind while you drive South Africa’s scenic roads and highways.

Hazards on South Africa’s roads

Drivers in South Africa love to overtake other cars on the road. Expect it to happen on any street, and from any lane (including the shoulder lane), so stay alert, check your rear-view mirrors, and watch out for blind spots. If you see someone trying to overtake you, just pull over (if it’s safe to do so) and let them pass.

Use your judgment. Don’t pull over if you’re near a sharp bend, close to the edge of a cliff, or on a tight street. Just slow down, maybe put your hazards on, and wait for a safe place to stop. Never speed up for the satisfaction of the driver behind you.

Always be alert when you come to an intersection with a four-way stop, which are common in South Africa. The first car to arrive has the right of way, so pay attention and wait your turn to avoid a possible collision.

Minibuses are a popular way to get around in South Africa, however, they can be dangerous. Reports show that hundreds of accidents involving minibusses occur each year, and many include fatalities. A recent survey showed significant concerns among South Africans about minibus safety due to overloading of vehicles and disobeying traffic laws. Metered taxis or Uber are generally safer options. Be sure to use an accredited taxi service, and be aware of ongoing tensions between Uber drivers and taxi drivers, which sometimes escalate into violence.

In rural areas, street signs and road markings are often lacking, and in many cases nonexistent. It’s not uncommon to find roads that aren’t marked on your map, or for street numbers and addresses to be totally different from what you expected. It’s particularly important to understand where you’re going before you set out, that way you can avoid getting lost or ending up in a dodgy area.

Watch for pedestrians while driving. School children often have long walks to and from school, and sometimes carelessly wander onto the road.

Many farmers don’t bother fencing their livestock in, so don’t be surprised if you come around a bend and see a cow or goat in the middle of the street. During daylight hours this may not be an issue, but at night, especially on roads that aren’t well lit, it can be extremely hazardous – so drive carefully.

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Wildlife on South Africa’s roads

One of the many reasons travelers head to South Africa is for the diversity of wildlife, including the “Big Five”: lions, leopards, rhino, buffalo, and elephants.

If you’re planning to take a drive through the many game parks and reserves, here are some important safety tips to keep at top of mind:

Roadside crime risks in South Africa

South Africa is a beautiful country, but there is also a lot of criminal activity going on. You may feel safe inside a vehicle, but there are still some dangers to be aware of. Here are some things to keep in mind, plus a few safety tips to avoid becoming a victim while behind the wheel.

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