Car Rental and Road Safety

Background Information

South Africa has become a tourist destination of choice and planning after the World Cup in 2010 will further strive to enhance the safety of visitors. Car Rental companies have an important role to play in enhancing the safety of business people and tourists on our roads.

Many professional, well-managed Car Rental Companies operate in South Africa - making available a fleet of well-maintained vehicles. There are however specific steps that clients can take to assist them in arriving safely at their destinations:

Planning/ Making a Reservation

Safety preparations should begin when making reservations:

The Rental Company / Vehicle:

  • Always choose a car rental company that has a reliable network of offices and back up service
  • Request a rental vehicle similar to the make and model of your vehicle
  • A similar vehicle to your own will ensure that you are familiar with the controls and the way the car drives
  • Rent a vehicle that is suited to your needs
  • Special requests should be made when making a reservation - If you require a child’s car seat -reserve one early
  • Verify the insurance requirements and whether supplemental insurance is required
  • Do not hesitate to raise any requests and communicate any concerns to the agent of the Car Rental Company
  • Possible questions to raise could include:
    • Whether the car has completed a pre-rental maintenance check
    • The steps to take in event of an accident, if the vehicle breaks down or if you lose a key
    • The best directions to your destination, location details for the GPS or a map.

Inspecting the Vehicle

Take a few extra minutes to inspect your rental vehicle  - this will provide peace of mind and contribute to your safety on the road. Specific attention should be given to the following:

  • The condition of your vehicle - You will be held responsible for undocumented damage i.e. scratches etc
  • Look at the tyres for inflation, good tread, and even tread wear. Uneven tread wear hints at a suspension, alignment, or tyre maintenance problems - Do not accept the vehicle if not satisfied
  • Check the lights: headlights, turn signals and interior/dashboard lights. Even if you'll only be driving during daylight hours-you might suddenly find yourself driving through a tunnel or facing a weather front in which you would want to turn on your lights. Do they work on bright as well as dim?
  • Test the brakes-with the engine running-to get the "feel" of them. Some brakes are "softer" than others and you don’t want any surprises
  • Make sure the hand brake is in working condition
  • Spray the windshield to ensure that the washer system works and the wipers are in good shape
  • Ensure that there’s an Owners Manual in the glove box
  • Check the boot for a spare tyre (push on it to ensure that it’s inflated), jack and other tools required for a tyre change
  • Take a few moments to familiarise yourself with the control panels and instruments
  • Adjust the seat, seat belts, rearview and side-view mirrors so that they're in the right positions for you
  • Find the hazard lights and check if they are working
  • Make sure that the vehicle has sufficient petrol/ diesel

It might be a good idea to drive across the parking lot once or twice to become more familiar with the vehicle. If you are not comfortable with the vehicle -go back to the rental agency immediately. Do not leave the parking lot with a vehicle you are not comfortable with!

Safety Hints / Driving a Rental Car

The following safety recommendations could assist the driver of a Rental Car:

  • Avoid distractions such as tuning radio stations and reading a map whilst driving
  • Always use seat belts - it is the law and can save your life in the event of an accident
  • Stay on the main roads and stick to your planned route
  • If you get lost, do not pull over to the side of the road to study your map or directions.  Instead, drive to the nearest, well-lit and populated public place
  • Always be wary of pulling over, especially if it is dark or if you are unfamiliar with the territory
  • Do not draw attention to the fact that you are a visitor
  • You are allowed to drive with your lights on  - this might reduce the chance of being in an accident
  • Be alert to pedestrians next to the road - 40% of road fatalities on South African roads are pedestrian fatalities
  • Never pick up hitchhikers!
  • If you are in an accident and emergency medical care is required - Contact ER24 at 084 124

It is worth noting that, should you disobey the law and pick up traffic fines through camera operated automatic equipment, you will have to pay these on the return of the vehicle .......
The Car Hire companies will have to complete the transaction with the vehicle hirer or be held liable for the fines.

Always drive the vehicle as if it is your vehicle… and consider that another client will drive the same vehicle soon after - Your driving might influence the safety of that person!

Also, view the following sections:

Avoiding Distractions While Driving

Hijack Prevention Guidelines

In Case of an Emergency / Accident

Pedestrian Safety

Car Rental and Consequences of a Crash with the Car Rental Vehicle