Sibongile Mafu

Our roads are a horror movie

2013-04-03 12:05

Sibongile Mafu

Easter has come and gone and the number of deaths on our roads has been tallied up. Every province has more or less submitted their figures, and unsurprisingly the numbers are still too high. The figures are unacceptable, even outside of Easter and there has definitely a renewed sense of urgency in terms of dealing with this problem.

Eight people were killed on the roads during Easter in Mpumalanga. Eight people died on the roads in the North West. Oh, yes, and 33 people have died on KwaZulu Natal’s roads. And so on. There was a horrific KZN collision which happened on Monday evening involving a motorbike and three vehicles which basically summed up the general dark cloud that always hovered over the country at this time of the year.

Every year we pore over the numbers, hoping for a different result, and every year we are left disappointed and grief-stricken. Every year families are left with more questions than answers during a time that is supposed to be the most joyous period of the year for many.

What is it about Easter time that makes drivers and road users alike lose their minds? It’s like a Cape Town rainy day: Capetonians seem to lose their ability to function within a traffic situation. Easter is a prolonged Cape Town rainy day. Now I know every accident has its own circumstances and contexts but surely numbers like these aren’t anywhere near acceptable.

I go out of my way during Easter to avoid the roads. Call it fear, or cowardice or wisdom, but the constant the general devastation during this long weekend can force one to consider a weekend at home with the dogs. And it doesn’t seem to be getting any better.

Every year Easter campaigns roll out instructing us all to be vigilant on the roads, be aware and alert, but do we listen? Or perhaps we’re content with living in a country with one of the highest number of road traffic deaths in the world?

A UN World Health report showed that one million people are killed in road deaths worldwide every year. One million too many, and road deaths in Africa are on the rise. One of the most chilling statistics that I’ve encountered is that traffic accidents are the eighth leading cause of death worldwide and the top cause among people aged 15 to 29. Not cancer, or HIV or heart disease. Traffic accidents. We’re losing our young people to something that is completely preventable and manageable.

We’re losing our peers, friends and family unexpectedly and unacceptably.

Of course in times like these we look people to blame. Our roads are not up to scratch, taxi drivers should be driving properly, our motorists are the idiots. Pedestrians, motorist, and cyclists should all take responsibility. When on the roads and being aware that there are other people, just like you enclosed in steels boxes hurtling at over 100km an hour alongside you, you have to kind of sit up and pay attention.

When you realise that motorists are not the only people entitled to the use of the roads, maybe we’ll sit up and pay attention. And when we realise that in no way does the responsibility of being responsible on the roads fall on the shoulders of one group or body, is the day we can perhaps start turning things around, at a reasonable and safe speed.

Young people are dying, at a rapid rate. And that should be enough to stir you.

I should really start working in traffic safety. Maybe I’ll be a pointsman.

- Sibongile is a videographer, blogger and social media enthusiast who would be nothing without her thumbs. Follow her on Twitter: @SboshMafu.

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