This article may seem somewhat cliché, but we as South Africans really need to start making an active attempt to change our attitudes on our roads.
No, this is not a rant about e-Tolls (that is for another day – I am fully opposed), and no, this is not a rant about the infamous minibus taxis that “govern” our roads on a daily basis. This is a rant about your average Joe that makes use of the public roads – specifically the Gauteng highways (N1 North and South in particular).
Let me paint my morning for you so that you understand why I have submitted this rant (article) to News24; I was travelling comfortably at between 90km/h and 100km/h in the slow lane (for those of you who are not aware, the N1 comprises of between 4 and 5 lanes depending on what area you are driving through), and the next minute, I see these lights gaining on me at one heck of a speed – this is not uncommon as the slow lane is actually seen as the fast lane it seems… This Hyundai i20 driver was so impatient, he decided he wouldn’t pass me on the right, but would rather drift into the emergency lane and continue on.
You may all be thinking “so?”; “so freaking what?” – Well, let me answer those questions; my problem with this is the fact that we were under a bridge at the time (Malibongwe heading North on the N1), and not 200m down the highway, there actually was a VW Polo that had stopped in the emergency lane for some reason. What would have happened if this reckless driver had timed his “oh so special move” a couple of seconds later?
I used to be a typical Joburg driver bullying my way to my destination – in a need to get to my destination in the fastest time possible – this means travelling at 120km/h (and sometimes faster to make those close gaps in between others) in the fast and second fastest lane whilst dodging slower drivers and trucks (who shouldn’t actually be in these lanes – but that is also for another discussion), but I had a complete attitude change.
This change was not due to any incident that occurred on the road, it just came over me one day whilst I was travelling from Rivonia to Weltevreden Park on the N1. I was travelling at 120km/h in the fast lane, and all of a sudden I decided to pull over to the slow lane, reduce my speed to 100km/h and see what the result would be.
Ladies and gentlemen, I get to the off-ramp too; I may get there 2 or 3 minutes later than what you do (assuming that you are a person who thinks that the speed limit means that you must on travel at that speed, and no slower), I get home safely too, but sometimes I feel that I am putting myself at more risk by travelling 20km/h slower and in the correct lane (keep left, pass right ring a bell to anyone).
My point is, why speed? Why drive recklessly? I know that we have pathetic traffic law enforcement and there is absolutely zero visible policing, but this is no excuse for putting other people’s lives at risk – is it? In actual fact, there is a JMPD branded BMW that follows suit with all the reckless drivers each day at more or less the same time – weaving in between the fast and second fastest lanes.
I may have been one of these drivers in the past, but a complete change of attitude has made me open my eyes and realise what I was actually doing. I actually feel terribly guilty for ever driving like I did, and am so thankful that nothing ever happened during my “moment as a typical Joburg” driver – other than the occasional fine. It is not my right to put your life in danger, and neither is it your right to put mine in danger!
I could rant all day about our traffic enforcement and fines, but that is not my purpose. If you want to speed, then you deserve to be issued with fines, and you deserve to be hassled and pestered for payment. Every day there are outbursts on social media of how people are victims of fines, and then claim the fine is illegal etc., etc., but why did you actually get that fine in the first place? You must have been breaking the law in the first place (regardless of the fact of whether the camera was operated by a registered officer or not lying at an angle of more than 5 degrees on a tripod, and not in a construction zone blah blah blah – this list of excuses is endless). Don’t get me wrong, I am not defending the JMPD – I think that they are nothing more than a cash cow milking their way to the bank on a daily basis – thanks to your attitude as a driver on the road.
We need to change our attitudes on our roads ladies and gentlemen. The daily news is plagued with accidents and traffic jams as a result. What is the price of a life in South Africa (bar violent crime)? It seems that the price of a life on the road is worth just as much (or even less) than those killed in senseless crimes across the country on a daily basis.
I know that this article will not make amends of my pathetic attitude in the past, but you know what? At least I am bettering my attitude on the road now, and will continue to do so. If we do not change, it will only get worse. I do not want to live with the death of anyone on my shoulders. In a split second your life can change – is it really worth it? All you gained was 2 or 3 minutes – and that could cost you someone’s life, which in turn will destroy their family and yours! You do not have the right to take someone’s life due to your recklessness.
If you are late for work each day, leave earlier. If you are running late for that meeting, make sure you are on time for your next one by leaving earlier. Do not make your issues mine, or anyone else’s. I try to remember why I used to drive like I did, and I actually cannot justify it. I was not late; I didn’t have deadlines, so why the heck did I drive like I did? I blame myself for succumbing to the attitude of others (“I want to be first at the robot”, “I want to be first in the queue at the off-ramp”, “I want to be first at the stop street”, “I want to be home first”, “I want to get to my holiday destination first”).
You may go ahead and rip me apart, or call this article a boring piece of cliché, but please take it for what it is. Perhaps I am still emotional from the incident on the road today (thanks Mr/Mrs Hyundai driver). I still feel we need a HUGE attitude change on our roads, and it can only be achieved through you and me…
So today, I leave you with the option to change your attitude. What can I as a person do to help you? Nothing! It is up to you whether you continue to put your life and others lives in danger in order to get to your destination earlier (by mere minutes). I for one will no longer be a sheep and follow the reckless South African attitude of driving. I was wrong, and it can never be taken back, but I am bettering myself for me and for you – do you have the stones to do the same?