Summer has officially made landfall and the festive season is just around the corner, bringing with it the annual migration of South Africans to beach resorts and holiday spots around the country.
While sun, surf and sea breezes will be the top priority for most holiday makers, there is lots more to bear in mind in order to ensure a successful getaway.
With traffic volumes set to increase exponentially and home break-ins hitting their peak during the silly season, it is especially important to ensure that both your property and your vehicle are suitably prepared to face the unique challenges the holiday period presents.
Before you pack the padkos and head out on your holiday pilgrimage, here are a few key pointers to bear in mind:
Keep your car in check
Nothing kills the festive spirit quite like a tyre blow-out or a mid-journey breakdown. It is vital that you give your car a thorough once-over before setting off this holiday. Make sure you have it inspected by an authorised dealership or repair shop, paying particular attention to mechanical and electrical systems.
Remember to have the oil and water levels checked before departure, as a shortage of either can cause significant damage to the car’s engine.
Equally important is the tyre pressure, which should be slightly higher if you are driving a car full of family and luggage – ask the petrol attendant for advice or check the pressure chart on the inside of the driver’s door jamb, or under the fuel filler flap, if you are unsure.
In the event of a serious accident, rapid assistance can make the difference between life and death. Should you be injured and unable to seek help, a tracking device could end up being a lifesaver.
Thanks to impact sensors, these smart devices can automatically send emergency notification to your insurer, alerting them to your whereabouts even if you are not physically able to. Before setting off, check that your insurance cover includes ambulance services and towing, as this could save you a lot of money in the long run.
Understand the insurance excess
What happens if you are involved in an accident that was not your fault? While it makes sense to imagine that the guilty party should bear the full financial brunt, this sadly is not the case.
The excess contribution remains in effect irrespective of who caused the accident. An excess serves to motivate the insured to be more responsible and take better care of their valuables, to minimise loss.
The good news is that there is a way to get your money back if you are not at fault. Your insurer will try to recover the excess you paid from the guilty party as part of the claims process, but given the fact that 70% of South African vehicles are uninsured[i], it is not always possible to do so successfully.
As such, it is important to be extremely vigilant at all times and in the event of an accident, to retrieve as much information from the other party as possible, including names, ID numbers, vehicle registration numbers and addresses. It must however be noted that an insurer cannot guarantee that the excess can be successfully recovered from the guilty party.
Matters become further complicated by the massive spike in tourists over the festive period. While visitors are governed by the same set of rules as locals, settling claims is far less straightforward, given the transient nature of their stay.
If you are involved in a crash with a tourist driving a rental car, with the tourist at fault – and the car rental comes with some form of third party liability insurance – the insurer could recover the excess and damage from the car hire company.
If the car rental does not have third-party insurance or if the tourist is not covered by the insurance, for example due to recklessness, the insurer could consider recovering from the tourist.
Remember that information is essential. Over and above their name, passport details and driving license details, you must jot down the make, model and registration number of the car, the rental agency, as well as the person’s work and residential addresses and contact details, both in South Africa and abroad. Photographic evidence and any other useful information can be used to substantiate your claim and ultimately give you a better chance of success.
If you are planning to hire a car this holiday season, it is important to understand what the rental contract stipulates and what your responsibilities will be in the event of an accident.
Car hire companies are not able to offer insurance, but rather provide responsibility waivers, which limit your liability in the event of damage. These act in a similar way to the excess on an insurance policy, in that by taking out a larger waiver, you will reduce the amount you need to pay in should the vehicle come to harm.
While it might seem like a wise idea to decline the waiver at the time, the minimal cost saving certainly will not be worth it should you be involved in an accident – you will be completely liable for all damages, whether they were your fault or not.
Safeguard your home
Unoccupied homes make an easy target for criminals over the holiday period, so it is important to take adequate measures to ensure that your return home is not characterised by claims, repairs and chaos.
If you are planning to be away for a while, consider hiring a house-sitter, who is likely to act as a deterrent to would-be thieves and can more easily manage falsely tripped alarm systems and unexpected power cuts.
Should you be unable to call on someone to assist, it is important to create the illusion of occupancy in any way you can – ask friends to stop in at regular intervals to switch lights on and off and empty the postbox, and set timer alarm clocks, lights or radios to turn on at designated times so as to keep crimes of opportunity at bay.
While it might seem obvious, it is also vital that you double check that all doors and windows are locked and that your alarm system is armed and activated before departure. It is also a good idea to unplug devices like TVs, modems and kitchen appliances, to avoid potential damage caused by storms or power surges while you are away.
While there are plenty of factors that can quickly turn a holiday from festive to frightful, the better prepared you are for the worst, the more likely you are to enjoy a relaxing and incident-free time away.