When will the road carnage end? Why do we only take notice when a national hero, Burry Stander dies at the hands of a reckless taxi driver! Every day thousands of runners, cyclists and motorists take to our roads and put themselves at risk.
We have a R30bn taxi industry with approximately 25 million customers a day (News 24 (30 April 2012) SA taxi drivers compete to be safest). It is a largely unregulated industry and a major contributing factor to the thousands of unnecessary deaths on our roads every year.
Not only do 18 000 people die in South Africa from road accidents but a staggering 180 000 are severely injured annually (Medical Research Council). The World Health Organisation estimates road crashes to be the main cause of death in youth between the ages of 5-29.
The lack of visible policing on the roads is a major problem! Provinces need their annual budgets increased so that each province has sufficient funding to ensure that no road goes un-policed and more speed cameras are allocated so that no offender can rest easy.
Not only should officers be more visible on regular taxi routes but also at taxi ranks. Better technology can be applied - Video cameras/speed-checking devices using laptops in all traffic officers’ vehicles (DA Policy) would be a good starting point! This technology could be linked up to a National database and would go a long way to catching the culprits immediately.
Approximately half the vehicles on our roads are deemed to be un-roadworthy! (The Retail Motor Industry Organisation). This is not rocket science; our Traffic Department must actively embark on a drive to impound un-roadworthy vehicles through well managed road blocks and vehicle inspections at the taxi ranks. Officers need to be trained on how to conduct vehicle safety checks and work rigorously to identify and prosecute offenders.
We are in dire need of an all in one vehicle testing, compliance and driver competency centre. I'm suggesting a facility (in line with the DA policy) that would offer the following:
· All public transport vehicles (including taxis) are tested annually for road worthiness and this result linked to the drivers licence;
· All public transport drivers (including taxi drivers) be required to undergo a rigid competency test annually in order to retain their drivers licence;
· Tracking devices are installed in public transport vehicles.
The device would be an aid to assist the traffic dept. in managing taxi activity along taxi routes. It could record taxi speeds, illegal stops and the use of the emergency lane.
No roadworthy certificate means no vehicle licence and yes if the speed cameras are all linked up to a National Data Base the taxi driver will be brought to justice.
'Those guilty of dangerous and reckless driving will risk having their vehicles impounded by the police or in extreme cases, even confiscated’ (DA policy). I propose that the taxi owner, although not directly guilty of dangerous or reckless driving in their personal capacity, be made to pay heavy fines and their fleets and drivers be investigated. Any taxi’s not registered or deemed to be un-roadworthy, or drivers driving without a licence could then be dealt with pro-actively, without innocents having to pay the price.
All the information needs to be submitted onto a National Database and linked up to all traffic departments nationwide.
The DA policy on transportation has a number of interesting solutions for road safety which I will touch on. I agree with the DA, road safety begins with the youth. I challenge the principals of all schools nationally to adopt a culture of road safety and include campaigns like Arrive Alive into the school curriculum. The rising death toll indicates that road safety campaigns should run far more regularly.
The DA supports a major campaign where all mediums (newspapers, television, radio and the internet) are used to promote the cause.
The DA also suggests a 24-hour toll-free number set up to allow the public to report traffic dangers. The demerit system now needs to be made a priority and an affordable safe and well maintained public transport system could also provide an alternative to taxis.
The carnage on our roads must end. We simply cannot continue to allow taxis to remain an unregulated industry. Let’s be frank and honest the current structure is not working so why not give something else a chance? Why not take on board some of the DA solutions?
Burry Stander was not only one of our national hero’s but he was someone’s husband, someone’s son.
Will the next someone be your son?