The festive season is here and with travel restrictions now a thing of the past, South Africans are expected to take to the roads in search of summer sunshine and some much-needed rest.
While the prospect of a time-out is a welcome one, being far from home presents its own unique set of risks. Given the high prevalence of road accidents over this period, it is best to be well prepared ahead of time, ensuring you’ve ticked all the necessary boxes before hitting the road.
Here are a few key pointers to make sure you’ve ticked all the necessary boxes before hitting the road.
Accidents away from home
Accidents have a way of happening when you least expect it, but there are a few precautions you can take ahead of time to ensure you are well prepared in the event of a festive fender bender. Keeping your vital information close to hand is always advisable, including proof of both your permanent and temporary addresses, as this will help to speed up the claim process if necessary. Ensure that both your driver’s and vehicle licences are up to date and valid and that your car is roadworthy ahead of a long-haul stint.
If you are involved in an accident, document the scene in as much detail as possible, taking photos if you can in order to assist your claim. It is also vital that you retrieve personal details from all parties involved, as well as any witnesses and that all relevant authorities are alerted if necessary. Even if you didn’t cause the accident and you’re not intending to claim against your own policy, it is still important to notify your insurer, as they may need to intervene in order to attempt to recover from a third party in some cases.
Car hire hassles
If you are travelling further afield, car hire can be a convenient option. But remember to read the fine print before signing that rental agreement, as it’s important to understand your liability in the event of an accident. While most rental companies offer varying degrees of cover in the form of waiver agreements, these differ significantly from traditional insurance, limiting your liability rather than providing comprehensive cover.
In case of an accident or theft, ordinary waivers limit your liability, while a super-waiver further reduces it. Think of a waiver as a form of excess, rather than traditional insurance. And while it might be tempting to cut costs and decline the waiver, remember that you will then be completely responsible for any damage to the vehicle, irrespective of who might have caused it. In some cases, you might even be charged for lost income while the vehicle is being repaired, so make sure to cover your bases and understand your responsibility before signing on the dotted line.
While tourists are likely to be in short supply this year, it’s best to be aware of the implications should you find yourself involved in an accident with someone from beyond our borders. Claiming for cross-border damages can be a complicated process. If you are involved in an accident that you did not cause, it’s crucial that you retrieve as much information as possible. Make sure to jot down passport details, addresses and contact numbers, as this will make filing a claim far easier. Recovering damages from abroad can be a difficult and time-consuming process, as summons can only be served at the driver’s home or work address, which is likely to be outside local borders. However, given the fact that local laws still apply to international drivers, success is possible, provided you are armed with all the requisite information and evidence.
There is no better way to avoid a claim than to reduce the risk of a mishap before it happens. Complete a comprehensive safety check on your vehicle before the holiday period, paying particular attention to your tyres, oil and water. If you are hearing any unusual rattles or battling to maintain a straight trajectory without adjusting your steering wheel constantly, it is best to pay a visit to a trusted mechanic.
While on the road, it is critical that you remain alert, stopping regularly to ensure you remain refreshed and revived. It is also important to start your trip with your phone fully charged, so that you are able to reach out in the event of an emergency. Vehicle trackers can also be life-savers, as these devices can automatically send an emergency notification to your insurer should you find yourself in an accident, even if you aren’t physically able to. Be sure to check that your insurance cover also includes ambulance services and towing before setting off, as this could save you a lot of money in the long run.
Enjoy your holiday with complete peace of mind by keeping your cover up to date and understanding your limits and obligations. First and foremost, it’s critical to review your cover, ensuring that all payments are up to date and that you are sufficiently insured based on the nature of your getaway. Additionally, remember that reckless or dishonest behaviour could result in any claims being rejected, so make sure to take the necessary precautions to avoid any unexpected shortfalls.
Know your limits
The festive season is a time for frivolity, but as has been proven countless times, revelry and roads do not mix well, as evidenced by the fact that South Africa has the highest rate of alcohol-related road deaths in the world, where as many as 58% of deaths can be attributed to alcohol consumption. The legal blood alcohol limit for driving is 0.05g of alcohol per 100ml of blood, which equates to little more than a glass of wine. As such, it is best to err on the side of caution and opt for a designated driver or taxi service rather than taking your chances. Some insurers also offer a set number of free drive services as part of your existing policy, so make sure to take advantage should you be in a position to do so.
Given the countless challenges faced during the course of 2020, you owe yourself a hassle-free holiday. And by keeping yourself informed and taking the correct precautions, you can minimise the likelihood of any unwelcome mishaps and accidents and return refreshed and ready to face 2021.
Karabo Kopeka is head of claims at MiWay Insurance.
MiWay is a licensed non-life insurer and Financial Services Provider (FSP 33970).