What is the true cost of safety on the road?

It’s easy to moan and groan about the cost of safety on the road, but the costs can become insignificant when put into perspective. 

Every single person has tremendous value. Within each of us, lies the potential of making a difference of some sort to society or our planet. We also all have a network of people who love us and support us on our journey.

We are all important.

It is almost impossible to put a cost on any person’s life or well-being.

Take a moment to think of your most loved ones. The number of names of our closest connections might only fit on one hand, but each person means the world to us. How devastating would it be if one of them were in constant pain or discomfort, due to compromised safety on the road? If there is someone who helps with financial payments, how would their loss of income affect you? Worst of all, if one of those loved ones were to be killed, how would your life be impacted? It is a horrible thing to think about, but it is, sadly, a reality. 

Over the past decade, around 50 000 pedestrians alone have been killed, leaving an incalculable amount of lives (and families) that have been shattered!

We don’t only owe it to ourselves to stay out of harm’s way, that is for sure!

Your safety and the Road Accident Fund

Did you know that every time fuel is pumped into a vehicle and paid for, a certain percentage is paid to the Road Accident Fund (RAF)?

The Road Accident Fund is a national organisation that uses approximately 93% of these funds to pay out claims to road users, including pedestrians, cyclists, and runners. That means that if you are hurt on our South African roads, such as being hit by a negligent car driver, there is a possibility to claim damages.

These claims can cover present and future medical attention, legal representation, and advice, as well as, in the case of death, certain funeral costs. As such, any road user has a degree of obligation and responsibility to remain safe as best as possible. Again, this includes pedestrians, cyclists, and runners, even though they do not contribute directly to the RAF.

So how do we maintain our safety on the roads? 

How do we best invest in our safety on the road – because let’s be honest, it is an investment.

It needn’t cost you more than making a safety-conscious decision, though, such as wearing light and bright clothing (that you might already own), when you leave the house, knowing that you will be better seen by drivers.

It could mean choosing takkies or a backpack with reflective strips when you are upgrading your child’s uniform if they walk to school or sports events.

Staying safe does not have to cost the earth

Strengthening these efforts can cost you anything from a few Rand to thousands of Rands. Things like adding reflective tape or a small light on a bicycle are relatively small costs, yet the increase in safety is exponential.

If you are a road user who might be at regular risk of an accident, such as being a pedestrian every morning to work, you may want to purchase some safety wear designed specifically for safety on the road.

In Cape Town, where winter days can be quite dark, foggy, and wet, you can typically see pedestrians, cyclists, and runners wearing specialised safety clothing.

This might be a neon yellow vest with reflective bands or even a full bright raincoat.

An extensive selection of affordable, comfortable, durable, stylish clothing of this sort is available at workwear and hardware stores countrywide.

Another small cost could be as simple as having your closest contact’s details engraved on a medical emergency bracelet. They are known in the industry as an ICE (In Case of Emergency) ID. You can, again, find so many versions of style and colour these days, with some looking almost like pieces of jewellery.

With every second counting if you are knocked unconscious, how valuable will it be to have people able to contact your loved ones and let them know where you are and what has happened?

These ICE IDs cost between R300 to around R800 for the fancier ones. Even at the higher price margin, these bracelets last for years, and, given their value at a time of an emergency, work out to be pennies in comparison. Buddy offers you a branded ICE ID at a discounted price.

We are not even talking about the overall peace of mind that you and your loved ones will have from the moment you place it on your wrist. This can be particularly important for children to see their parents wearing – many children have unspoken anxiety, knowing that their parents or guardians might get hurt when they use the road – and a bracelet might give them a sense of ease.

Protecting your head is critically important

Of course, helmets are another easily-affordable item that can save a lot of heartaches. In this article, we focus on cyclists, but those travelling by skateboard or scooter should also consider having something to protect their noggin!

Not all helmets are made meeting specific criteria, especially for impact, so be sure to do your research and preferably purchase one from a reputable dealer.

We wouldn’t recommend getting one from a second-hand store. You never know if the safety of the helmet has been compromised. Hairline cracks that aren’t visible to the eye might exist and it is along these lines that the whole structure might give way.

Top of range safety gear

Cycling can be a particularly risky way to travel. You are expected to obey the rules of the road as though you were a car. However, vehicle drivers try to be aware of other vehicle drivers – For some reason, they are almost blind to cyclists.

The very best defence is to become as much an offensive cyclist as possible. The usual suspects of bright, light clothing and reflective strips, are a given …

But what if you were able to be signalled of approaching vehicles, especially from behind? 

The technology exists and it’s built into a tail light that fits onto your bike! It is compatible with most smartphones and can give you a tone or vibrational alert. And what if that light that is attached to the rear of your bike is brighter than a car’s taillight and can be seen from a mile away (with up to 16 hours of battery life)? Take a look at this Garmin Varia, to see more about this safety device.

If you are a dedicated cyclist, this nifty gadget will set you back a bit, but its value is exponential when one considers how much it improves your safety.

In addition, cyclists can stay safe on the road by wearing highly visible cycling clothing – want to look good and be visible? 

In conclusion

There are many ways that one can be responsible as a pedestrian, cyclist, or runner. A lot of it is common sense, really.

It is sad to see that many do not consider these types of adjustments. When we are driving, how often are we surprised by people, whom we only see at the last minute?

At the end of the day, it is not only ourselves and our immediate contacts that are affected by any accident on the road. The emergency staff, and possibly a driver, might have to deal with trauma as a result.

By taking the time to look at the most effective way you can contribute to the well-being of yourself and others, by improving your safety, you are being an active value to society – and we honour you for being that person.   

Safety on the road