As parts of South Africa battle with a heat wave, it is important for those who spend large portions of their day in the car, to be even more careful. High temperatures make drivers vulnerable to heat stress or heatstroke which not only poses a risk to your physical well-being but also to your ability to drive safely.
The managing director of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert, says that like with any other bad weather condition, people should reduce their amount of driving during a heat wave as much as possible. “Life, however, does carry on despite the weather so avoiding the car completely is impossible. In these instances, take precautions to ensure you do not land up in hospital either from heatstroke or a car crash.”
- Avoid travelling during peak times. Try leaving earlier or later to avoid gridlocked traffic.
- Use your air-conditioned. Open windows cannot regulate the temperature as well as an air-conditioned and can cost you more in fuel usage. If you do not have an aircon or it is broken, avoid driving during peak heat times.
- Stay hydrated. Symptoms of dehydration include dizziness, lack of energy and even fainting which become even more dangerous if they occur while you are behind the wheel. If you think you are dehydrated rather ask someone to help you seek medical care than continue driving through it.
- Keep your car maintenance up-to-date. Ensure your car has enough coolant to handle the higher temperatures. Inflate your tyres correctly. Underinflated tyres cause more friction and therefore heat and you are at risk of a blow out with overinflated tyres as air expands with heat.
- If your engine starts to overheat, pull over immediately and call for assistance. Driving further can do serious damage to your car.
- Wear sunglasses while driving to protect your eyes from UV rays. Polarised lenses are most effective at reducing glare.
- When you park your car, try to park in a shady spot or invest in a sun shade to protect your hands from getting burnt when you get in the car. The steering wheel and seats can reach temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius. In 35 degree Celsius temperatures the interior temperature can reach 47 degrees Celsius in just an hour.
Of particular concern is the tendency of drivers to leave pets and sometimes even children in hot cars with windows closed. “Temperatures in cars can reach deadly levels in less than an hour and this is without a heat wave. Within that time an adult can get third degree burns and a child can die. Even cars parked in the shade are dangerous, it just takes slightly longer. Even if you intend to leave your child or pet in the car only for few minutes, do not do it,” warns Herbert.