Fresh ideas needed on road safety

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - COMMENT -

THE FES­TIVE sea­son comes and goes each year ac­com­pa­nied by a grim in­evitabil­ity – the high death toll on the coun­try’s roads. And it is not only dur­ing the fes­tive sea­son that this toll is heavy. The to­tal num­ber of traf­fic-re­lated fa­tal­i­ties and se­ri­ous in­juries through­out the year is shock­ingly high, as much as 10 times the rate recorded in a coun­try like Bri­tain .

This year saw Western Cape trans­port MEC Robin Carlisle wage a highly pub­li­cised road-safety en­force­ment cam­paign, which in­cluded blitzes, threats of tough ac­tion against of­fend­ers and even show­ing real-life footage of crashes in the hope of shock­ing view­ers into adopt­ing safer road habits.

Carlisle cer­tainly grabbed head­lines with his cam­paign but sadly it has not trans­lated into lives saved. The death toll now stands at over 100.

Trans­port Min­is­ter Sbu Nde­bele too has adopted a hard line, vow­ing au­thor­i­ties would seize driv­ers’ li­cences.

There was also the re­cent mur­der con­vic­tion of a taxi driver who de­fied the sig­nal at a level cross­ing, re­sult­ing in the deaths of 10 school chil­dren.

Although they might coax greater obe­di­ence from those in­clined to be law-abid­ing any way, hype, pub­lic sham­ing and harsh penal­ties alone are un­likely to im­pact greatly on driver mis­con­duct and the road ac­ci­dent toll.

Many fac­tors con­trib­ute to road fa­tal­i­ties. Drunken driv­ing, speed­ing and un­road­wor­thy ve­hi­cles, over­load­ing, lack of driv­ing skills, not wear­ing seat belts and ig­no­rance of the rules of the road all play a role.

En­force­ment is crit­i­cal. Far more traf­fic of­fi­cers need to be de­ployed in far more places far more of the time and they need to fo­cus far more on mov­ing vi­o­la­tions and less on park­ing in­fringe­ments.

Our au­thor­i­ties need to study what prac­ti­cal mea­sures have worked in other coun­tries – road bumps, traf­fic cir­cles and nar­row­ing of roads at in­ter­sec­tions are ex­am­ples.

Above all the mind­set and skills of those who use our roads needs to change and this un­doubt­edly will take time. A good start would be to en­sure school pupils un­der­stand the rules of the road for pedes­tri­ans as well as driv­ers.

Mean­while Carlisle, Nde­bele and their ad­vis­ers will have to go back to the draw­ing board and seek ex­pert ad­vice away from the glare of me­dia at­ten­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.