4x4, Buyers' advice, Motoring News, off-road, road safety, vehicle maintenance

Female track ace Clare goes off-road for tyre advice

  • Women’s Month event drives home tyre road-safety
  • Continental steps up with tyre safety advice
  • Off-road driving experience helps sharpen driving skills
clare vale pos 1
KICKING UP DUST AT KLIPBOKKOP: One of the 4×4 SUV’s used by the ladies at their Women’s Month day out in the Cape country. Image: Quickpic

PORT ELIZABETH – Defensive driving is the single most important skill that South African women can acquire to ensure that they and their loved ones stay safe on the country’s roads.

This is the view of SA’s Firs Lady of motorsport, Clare Vale, who shared her safe driving secrets with BestDrive and Continental Tyres’ female sales and dealer staff at a recent off-road driving retreat in honour of Women’s Month.

The two-day event at the General Tyre Adventure Academy at Klipbokkop near Worcester in the Western Cape, saw attendees tackle tough and sandy terrain and hill-climbs to test General Tyres’ off-road products and their personal vehicle-handling capabilities.

MEET THE FAIR CLARE: Exactly where she likes to be, in the driving seat, though perhaps rather on a racetrack than a 4x4 course. Image: Quickpic
MEET THE FAIR CLARE: Exactly where she likes to be, in the driving seat, though perhaps rather on a racetrack than a 4×4 course. Image: Quickpic

The aim of the latter global road safety awareness campaign is to work towards the ultimate goal of zero road crashes, zero injuries and zero deaths.

“A defensive driver is constantly thinking, ‘What if…? What if a child runs across the road? What if that driver talking on his cellphone hasn’t seen me coming?” she explained.


Vale, the first SA woman to achieve a podium finish in the national V8 Supercar series, said people often lacked confidence on the road. Improved defensive driving would help to increase confidence and give drivers more control in a difficult situation.
Tyres, she pointed out,played a vital and often overlooked role in road safety.

“Worn tyres will not disperse water the way they should, putting you at risk in rain. Maintaining correct tyre-pressures is vital – tyres that are too soft will put pressure on the sidewalls, too hard and the road-contact patch size will be smaller.”


Everybody, she said, should make a habit of checking their tyres for unusual wear, a sign of poor wheel alignment, as well as inspecting them for cuts or damage from potholes.

Her fellow Vision Zero ambassador and member of the SA Guild of Motoring Journalists, Driving in Heels‘ Vuyi Mpofu, told attendees that knowing the very basics of car and tyre maintenance could save their life.

“This includes knowing your car’s recommended tyre pressures for various circumstances, what wheel rotation involves, and why wheel-balancing and alignment are vital. You also need to know when and how to buy a tyre, including how to read the letters and numbers on the sidewall and details such as their expiry date.”

Mpofu said it was essential to “never drive distracted”. “Put away your cellphone, ffocus on the road. Remember – there are people waiting for you at your destination and a family that relies heavily on you.”


All loose items and passengers should be adequately restrained, children should be in a child seat or, at least, restrained by a seat belt. It is almost impossible to hold on to a child in a severe collision.

“All unrestrained objects in your car travel at the same speed as the car itself; the only difference being that the car has ABS and other braking technology whereas your mobile, shoes and toddler do not.”

BestDrive marketing manager Cathy Hutchinson told the assembly of women that a large proportion of all tyre purchases were made by women and women played key roles at Continental Tyre and in the BestDrive dealer network.

“Our Women’s Month off-road experience,” she said after the event, “helped the women in our network to sharpen their driving skills, gave them the confidence to drive off-road on sand, mud and gravel, and showed them just how important tyres are in delivering a safe driving experience.”

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