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Road Safety

Driving in Botswana, and other southern African countries, can be challenging and sometimes dangerous. Inexperienced and irresponsible (often drunk) drivers, wandering livestock and wild animals, potholes, long distances, high temperatures and intense rain are a few of the hazards likely to be experienced.

Transportation Accidents: Traffic circulates on the left in Botswana, as elsewhere in the region. There are a high number of traffic accidents owing to poor driving habits, long tedious stretches of two-lane highways (often without shoulders), excessive speed, poor street lighting, drunk drivers and domestic and wild animals on the roads.

Route Planning: It is recommended you use a Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation system with the appropriate software to check your route, particularly locations of police stations, hospitals, shops and petrol stations.

Timing: Plan your trip so that you leave and arrive in daylight - driving at night is extremely dangerous due to wandering animals, potholes, badly lit roads. Dusk and dawn are also hazardous due to low sun and the contrast between a dark road/landscape and a relatively bright sky. Donkeys are particularly hard to spot at this time.

People and Other Vehicles: Alcohol and excessive speed are significant contributing factors in most accidents, particularly in the evening, at weekends and month end (payday). Some vehicles are not completely roadworthy, and not all drivers are properly trained or experienced. The maximum speed limit outside of cities and towns is 120km/hr, but people consistently drive well above the limit. Just as often you can find yourself coming up quickly on a car or truck that is crawling along at half the speed limit, or a car pulling out suddenly from a side road. They are either going too fast or too slow, so drive defensively.

Road Conditions: All major roads are tarred and in either good to excellent condition. Most secondary roads are either graveled or hard packed earth. Currently, the road between Nata and Kasane (near the Botswana/Zimbabwe border) is in poor condition; construction of new road is underway and will be completed by 2011. Vegetation can grow up to and over the edge of the road, particularly during the rainy season, causing a lack of visibility on bends and also concealing hazards at the side of the road.

Animals: Even when a road is fenced, cows, donkeys, and goats can found feeding along the side of the road, crossing the road, or just standing in the road. Younger animals are particularly dangerous as they are skittish - calve, foals, and kids may suddenly rush into the road.

Communication: It is illegal to use a cell phone while driving. If you don't have roaming on your cell phone, it is worth unlocking your phone so that you can buy and insert a local SIM card. They are quite cheap and network coverage is good on the major routes and in most towns. It is recommend you use a local number as calls are cheaper and your number will be displayed on the cell phone of whoever you call - so they can call back in the event of emergency. Satellite phones are useful in remote areas beyond the range of cell phones.