Road trips aren’t always as easy as getting from A to B.

Sure, you’re stopping regularly to stretch and rest. Your padkos is keeping your tummy full while your playlist keeps your soul smiling. But, if you’ve been on the road for more than a few coffees (or bags of biltong), you could still find the drive difficult.

That’s because some roads are more demanding than others – and more dangerous.

SANews notes that 1,390 people died on South African roads during the 2019/2020 festive season. The Western Cape saw 136 deaths, Gauteng had 254, KwaZulu-Natal a whopping 354 and Eastern Cape 242. Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said that these losses were mostly caused by people on foot, hit and run crashes, single vehicles overturning, and head-on collisions.

If you’re taking a road trip any time soon, here a few tips and tricks for getting there safely, and which of South Africa’s dangerous roads to avoid.  

Mind your Rs and Ns

When planning your trip, it helps to know who’s in charge of the road you’re navigating.

N stands for National, and often connects big cities and towns on major routes. R refers to Regional (or provincial) and connects smaller areas, or one N road to another.

If you want to report the state of a road, N is maintained and repaired through the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL), and R by provincial government or the municipality of the area.

10 Road trip safety tips

  1. Have car cover suitable to situations that can arise from a long trip or testy road.
  2. Check your car before you drive with this list.
  3. Drive in daylight with your headlights on for maximum visibility.
  4. Don’t overload your car.
  5. Plan your trip carefully to reduce stress and confusion.
  6. Use a wayfinding tool (that works offline for outlying areas without reception).
  7. Make sure there’s a 3-second gap between you and cars in front of and behind you.
  8. Take frequent rest breaks.
  9. Eat and drink healthily (less energy drinks, more water!)
  10. Watch out for motorbikes, trucks, buses, and overloaded vehicles.

We took a look at what to do if you’re in a road accident here, what the law requires and what to do if you hit a dog or cat or a pedestrian or cyclist here.

Avoid these risky roads

  • N2 East London – Umtata (231km)
  • N2 Umtata – Kokstad (188km)
  • N1 Mokopane – Polokwane (58.4km)
  • N1 Polokwane – Makhado (109km)
  • N4 Middelburg – Belfast (71.6km)
  • N2 Durban – Tongaat (48.4km)
  • N12 Springs – Witbank (101km)
  • R573 Pretoria – KwaMhlanga (73.8km)
  • N1 Naboomspruit – Mokopane (44.3km)
  • R71 Polokwane – Tzaneen (94.9km)

Alert others with tech

You can notify other drivers of the state of a road with a few taps in the Waze app . Please never touch your phone while you’re at the wheel, though. It’s not only an offence, texting can result in fatal road accidents which we detail here.

Ready for the road? Even the best drivers can have the worst luck. Be prepared. Invest in car cover immediately and drive easy.