It seems every summer half of South Africa gets into their cars to visit the other half, who tend to live quite far away. Every year is the same lament of the terrible toll on our roads. There is nothing you, the responsible driver, can do about the behaviour of others. You can keep an eye out for inebriated pedestrians, drive defensively and take regular rest stops.
The one thing you can and should do is make sure your own vehicle is in tip-top shape for the trip.
Start with the wheels and tyres. Check the tread depth. The minimum is 1mm, but do you really want the minimum when it comes to your safety?
Check the pressure, including the spare tyre. Walk with the petrol attendant who does this and note if one or more tyres are significantly lower than the rest. This may be a slow leak and you will have to check that out. Not only will a low tyre cost you at fuel consumption, but it will also affect handling and could even blow out.
Check for uneven wear on the tread. This may be your wheel alignment that needs adjusting. It would also mean something is wrong with your suspension or even your steering.
Tools and emergency gear. Make sure you have your basic toolkit, including jack and warning triangle. Take a torch and basic first aid kit. Keep a list of emergency numbers like 112 for the nearest emergency service. Make sure you have your medical aid and/or hospital plan cards with you. If you or a passenger has a medical condition or is allergic to certain medications, make a note. People in shock don’t always think clearly.
Lights. Check all your lights. Shine your headlights on a wall and check both dim and bright. If you feel any of these are not pointing in the right spot, please have it looked at. Check rear and brake lights, including the high brake light if your car has this. Ditto indicators and reverse lights.
Windscreen. Check your wiper blades and replace them if they are worn. Make sure your demisters, front and back, work properly. Check your windscreen for chips or damage. Small chips can be easily and cheaply sealed, but if left can suddenly spread into a large crack on a long trip. A damaged windscreen can make any accident much worse.
Oil, coolant, battery, brakes, and suspension. By all means, check your oil, but unless you have the skills needed, rather take your car to a professional to check out the brakes, suspension, cam belt, oil filter, etc. You can book a standard safety check with your nearest branch of Group 1 Cars here.
It is a bit of a hassle to do all this, but it can save you a lot of grief on your trip. And you could pat yourself on the back because you at least are not part of the problem.