We know how much fun it is to hit the road with your friends; to pump the tunes and steer the wheel towards a night out on the town. Getting your driver’s licence is a milestone, but getting the keys to a car is a big responsibility. In South Africa, the death rate of young drivers is at least five times higher than that of older people, with car accidents as the leading cause of death among young people aged 15 to 29 years old.

Everyone knows that driving drunk or texting while driving are research-proven examples of irresponsible driving, but other driving behaviours are just as risky, especially when you have your friends in the car with you. So this Youth Day, we’re putting the spotlight on keeping you safe and moving on our roads with these top tips:

Keep the music at a reasonable volume

Whether it’s Kanye or Rihanna, we know how much you love maxing the radio volume and singing along to your favourite music. However, this seemingly innocent habit can have dangerous consequences. Loud music prevents you from hearing what’s taking place outside of your vehicle and you could miss sounds signalling danger, such as sirens, hooting, shouts and more.

Loud music is not only distracting, but it decreases your ability to react to sudden events and make decisions – tiny hesitations which could prove fatal.

No cell phones, not even for your friends

Even while using a hands-free kit, a cell phone conversation behind the wheel decreases your driving ability. Another, often unknown risk is when your friends are texting in the car and you’re feeling the FOMO, wanting to see the social media post or text message your friends are reacting to. Don’t take your eyes off the road – the post/text will still be there at the end of your journey, but you might not be.

Let’s talk about talking

We get it. You’ve got loads to catch up on with your friends, and being in a car together can seem like it’s the best time to get into the he-saids and she-saids. But talking can distract you from focussing on the road, especially if you’re new to driving.

Not just you, but your passengers too! Experienced passengers know when to be quiet – they will respond to the same visual clues as you, often pausing the conversation during overtaking or other difficult driving manoeuvres. But often, your friends will be just as amped as you with the newfound freedom of independent transport and could distract you without meaning to, simply by talking.

Keep calm and carry on

Driving while emotionally agitated can increase the risk of an accident. If you’re angry, sad or crying, don’t get behind the wheel. Take a break, pull yourself towards yourself, and only drive when you’ve calmed down enough to make clear-headed, responsible decisions.

We are all accountable for road safety in South Africa and should take it seriously, especially when it comes to getting in the car with our friends and driving them around. They’re precious cargo, just like you. Let’s keep it tidy, South Africa.

Friends don’t let friends take their eyes off the road.