Roadworks roadhogs

2010-11-24 00:00

AHEAD of the festive season traffic crush on the N3, most drivers are breaking the law by speeding through the dangerous area around the Chota Motala interchange construction site, according to data gathered by integrated intelligent imaging technology (I3) on the N3 last week.

The site has been dubbed a “death-trap”. This while the authorities are losing out on millions of rands in potential revenue in fines from errant motorists on that stretch of the highway.

The Witness organised a traffic study in response to public concern about dangerous speeding in the 3,5 km stretch, especially by trucks and heavy long-distance vehicles (LDVs).

A local company, Licence Plate Recognition cc (LPR), assisted by NSA Geomatics set up two cameras attached to a mobile computer that photographed and tracked vehicles passing through the construction site during a test period. LPR software from the Durban company Lormark was used to calculate the average speed of vehicles travelling between the two cameras.

The cameras ran for an hour from 10 am to record traffic on the northbound N3 and for 37 minutes from 8.29 am on the southbound lanes.

The recording session was cut short when a heavy truck travelling illegally in the fast lane smashed into the R25 000 camera and destroyed it.

The speed limit through the construction site is 40km/h for trucks and LDVs and 60km/h for passenger vehicles. Heavy vehicles are not permitted to use the right-hand lane or to stop anywhere in the construction zone.

The evidence from the recordings shows not only that few drivers observe these restrictions, but also that many do not wear seatbelts and talk on their cellphones in disregard of the rules of the road.

Said Bradley Naidoo, site manager for the contractor on the N3/Chota Motala interchange project, Group Five: “Seeing the way drivers drive through the construction site every day, it is a miracle that we have had only 15 accidents, including two fatalities, in the seven months that we have been on site.

“Not only do drivers ignore the speed limits, but truck drivers also stop illegally. There are two hot-spots on the N3 north and three on the southbound side where trucks stop to drop off and pick up passengers. This is not only illegal but also very dangerous as the traffic back-up created could cause a multiple pile-up.”

Barry Fryer-Dudley, managing director of LPR cc, which carried out the study for The Witness, said: “The construction zone is a death trap waiting for a serious accident to occur.

“When we set up two overt cameras, in full view of passing drivers, many slowed down after seeing the first. This suggests that the speeding situation is actually much worse than the data shows.

“If we were allowed to issue fines, the morning would have generated R596 470 for the Road Traffic Inspectorate (RTI) and/or the city, made up of speeding, cellphone use, no seat belts, no number plates, etc.”

Fryer-Dudley said he wrote to the RTI and offered to demonstrate his company’s technology and how it could be used for law enforcement, but he never received a response.

•The Witness sent a list of questions to the RTI and Msunduzi Municipality, which are jointly responsible for the section of N3 concerned.

No response was received from the RTI by the time of going to press and a municipal spokesperson said the questions should be referred to the Department of Transport.

Read more here.

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