As most of the locations in Namibia are very remote, being safe when driving a 4×4 is essential. According to the Motor Vehicle Accident Fund, the most causes of accidents are pedestrians who do not take responsibility for their own safety as well as drivers who lose control of their vehicles due to speed, drunk driving, and poor road conditions. According to Mark Stoffberg, Hertz Tour Operator Executive, these accidents are on the rise. “The number of fatalities as well as injuries has increased substantially over the last few years,” Stoffberg says. While you don’t always have control over these elements, there are a few things you can do to be more road savvy. The following general safety measures should be taken while driving across Namibia, as compiled by Hertz:
General driving tips
- Familiarise yourself with all the technical features of your vehicle.
- When hiring a 4×4, insist that the rental company staff explains all the aspects of the vehicle before driving off.
- Seatbelts should be worn at all times (both front & rear).
- Do not underestimate the midday heat and long distances between towns and carry enough water and snacks with you. Also, note the filling stations are few and far in between – ensure that you always have sufficient fuel in the tank.
- Ensure that you rent a 4×4 vehicle with a suitably high ground clearance (e.g. SUV or 4×4 or Kombi) if you intend to travel to remote areas such as Sossusvlei; Twyfelfontein, Keetmanshoop; and Skeleton Coast.
- After the summer rainfalls in Namibia, the gravel roads tend to be in a poor condition, as all the topsoil has been washed away and a lot of loose rocks are strewn all over.
- Drastically reduce your speed on bumpy gravel roads, so as to avoid stones damaging the undercarriage of your vehicle.
- Do not swerve for animals
- Slow down when animals are at the edge of the road
- As a rule, do not drive through water unless you have to.
- If the vehicle should leave the road, keep the steering wheel straight and brake gently
- Do not slam on the brakes in case of a flat tire; keep steering straight and coast to a stop
- Drive with your lights on at all times
- Adhere to the speed limits. The recommend gravel road speed is 80 km/h
- Read the road conditions!
- Keep a safe distance from wild animals
- Keep well to the left when going over a rise, especially on gravel roads.
- Do not stop just over a rise or on a blind turn.
- Remember that phone reception is extremely limited in certain parts of Namibia – always notify your next destination of your time of departure, so that a search party can be sent in case of an accident/mechanical failure en-route.
- It is highly recommended to do a 2-hour long 4×4 driving course, for those people who will travel in very difficult terrain.
Above: Driving in Nambia with a 4×4 can be a tricky business. Photo by: Jakes Pauw Survival in the bush As you might stop over between your planned destinations, being safe doesn’t end behind the wheel. When you’re in the bush you should:
- Always carry the essentials:
- Lots of extra water
- First aid kit
- Extra spare tyre
- Tow Rope
- Jumper cables
- Keep a safe distance from wild animals
- Stick together and remain at the vehicle. It is easier for search parties to find you at the vehicle than on foot.
- Signaling: Burning spare tire, packing rocks
Safe Beach Driving
Driving on sand (especially with a 4×4) can be a tricky business. Remember to keep these tips in mind when you’re attempting to drive on the beach:
- Only drive on the beach and desert where permitted
- The coastal areas around Swakopmund, Walvis Bay, Lüderitz and Henties
- Bay forms part of a conservation zone. The environment at the coast is very fragile to outside influences like for instance off-road driving. Therefore, off-road driving in the dunes as well as on the beach is not permitted. Certain sections remain open for off-road driving.
- Beware of tidal washouts
- Do not drive in the water
- Maintain momentum in deep sand
- Do not brake hard when stopping, roll to a halt to avoid digging in.
Planning a 4×4 trip and need to hire a 4×4 vehicle locally, you might want to consider 4×4 hire Namibia to find the perfect vehicle for your travel needs.