Namibia’s roads are for sightseeing not speed

Kayaking is fun!
July 26, 2012
Riding the Fish River Canyon
July 26, 2012
Kayaking is fun!
July 26, 2012
Riding the Fish River Canyon
July 26, 2012

We know Italians love to drive fast cars and we understand the Italians’ love of speed. What is more beautiful than a Ferrari or Lamborghini, after all?

Text and photos by ©Sharri Whiting De Masi – All photographs copyright of the author 

Re-printed with permission of the author

This is an alert to Italians and everyone else out there who like driving fast: Namibia’s roads are made for a slower pace. The crystal blue skies, panoramic vistas and spectacular wildlife are the main reasons you come to this incredible country, and you’ll appreciate these aspects much better if you slow down. Namibia has more than 42 000 kilometres of state-maintained roads that make independent travelling easy and a fantastic experience.

According to statistics, the majority of road accidents in Namibia are caused by speed – remember this and the chances are your vacation won’t be ruined by having to spend part of it in hospital. So we appeal to you: Make safety your first priority when driving in Namibia. Better late (and safe) than sorry!

What else? Firstly, always drive on the left. A trick some tourists use as a reminder to stay on the left side of the road is putting a post-it note or other small item on the left-hand side of the dashboard.

Secondly, be extremely careful when overtaking cars, even on roads that seem to have no traffic. A car or slow truck lurking in an unexpected dip in the road will be impossible to see until you’re on top of it.

When driving in Namibia, think about driving on ice. That’s right, in this desert country, pretend you’re driving on an icy road – driving on gravel surfaces is very similar.

Because of the high number of accidents, car rentals are generally higher in Namibia. This reflects on the greater risk. Rental agencies suggest driving no more than 80 kilometres an hour on gravel roads.

Other important aspects when driving on Namibia’s roads:

• Always wear a seatbelt;

• In the rainy season, a sudden storm can wash away parts of the roadbed in minutes. You can’t react safely when you’re driving too fast;

• Tyres don’t grip as well on gravel as they do on tarred surfaces. If you become bogged down in sand, letting some air out of the tyres will increase traction and mostly allow you to drive out quite easily. Always carry at least one spare tyre in case of puncture, two would be even better;

• Pay careful attention to traffic signs. If the sign warns of a curve, reduce your speed by one third; if it warns of a sharp curve, reduce it by one half;

• Take enough water to drink and fill your radiator, should your car overheat. Pay close attention to your temperature gauge, especially if you’re using air-conditioning and travelling over hilly terrain;

• Travellers to remote regions should always travel in groups of at least two vehicles;

• Select a vehicle similar to the one you’re accustomed to driving; don’t drive a 4×4 unless you know how to handle it in rough situations.

• Dusty roads in Namibia are a fact of life. If you drive too closely behind another car, your visibility will be limited. Never overtake in dusty conditions. Always have your headlights switched on, so that you can be seen by oncoming vehicles.

• Avoid travelling at night; if you must, turn off your headlights immediately when you see a large animal standing in the road and stop the car until it has taken off:

• In case of an accident, stay with your car no matter how long the wait, unless you can see a house close by. If you wander off, you might be in danger from predators, and you run the risk of having sunstroke if you walk under the hot desert sun. In Namibia, the next car to pass will undoubtedly provide assistance.

This article appeared in the Aug/Sep ‘07 edition of Travel News Namibia.


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