Pothole peril

2009-01-28 00:00

A woman is suing KwaZulu-Natal for R1,1 million: she was injured in a 2004 taxi accident allegedly caused by a large pothole on the R33 between Keats Drift and Tugela Ferry: her injuries resulted in the amputation of an arm.

It is alleged on her behalf that provincial employees responsible for the upkeep of roads had negligently failed to keep the R33 in a safe condition, they had not inspected it regularly, they had not erected warning signs and they had neither repaired the road nor closed dangerous sections of it pending repair. The province answers the charges by pleading, in effect, that it hadn’t the money to spend on road maintenance.

It will be interesting to see how the case develops. It’s by no means the first of its kind, and if the surfaces of our roads continue to deteriorate unchecked, it certainly won’t be the last. Potholes are dangerous: they can damage vehicles and send them out of control, and, also, hasty attempts by motorists to avoid them may imperil other road users. How many more serious injuries, even deaths, caused by disintegrating road surfaces, will it take for corrective action to be taken?

The province may argue that some responsibility — vigilance and cautious driving — lies with the motorist. True, but there’s little or nothing any driver can do about road main-tenance infrastructure that is blatantly in a state of meltdown. Those people who are paid to do the job aren’t doing it — nor are they being held accountable. Why haven’t the culprits been identified and sternly dealt with?

And the argument that funds are short is unacceptable. If there is indeed a shortfall, the reasons must be investigated and the matter rectified. There is no alternative to regular maintenance.

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