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Road rage in SA: are we out of control?

01 August 2013, 12:42

There was a time when I spent up to three hours on Gauteng roads. It was tiring, but I chose to see it as time to catch up with the news, reflect on one or two business matters and enjoy a bit of music.

Initially it was tough with considerable strain on the back and neck areas but after a while you deal with it better. Every now and again you would be delayed by accidents so it was critical to be aware what roads to avoid. Occasionally you would have to take evasive action to avoid an accident yourself. It would for instance not be unusual to see a taxi violating several traffic laws, but that’s all part of it I guess!

You would also see things on the road that makes you sad. I will never forget one day while driving in a southern direction, fairly early in the morning I saw a car (Honda SUV I think) driving in the opposite direction for some unknown reason just lost control. It happened as if in slow motion. An island separated the lanes so we were not really in immediate danger. In the space of a few seconds a car driving peacefully became a complete write off. Driving at about 80 km/h gave me just enough time to see the vehicle come to standstill and then in my rear view mirror how other motorists going in the same direction pulled over to help. It was the weirdest feeling. Did that just happen?

The period between 2006 and 2009 must have been among the worst. Upgrades to just about every road in Gauteng had been commissioned and it was a nightmare to get to the office. On one occasion I decided to leave the office early at about 16h00. Now in normal traffic say on a Saturday it would take me 45 minutes to get home. This particular Friday (nogal) I arrived at home at 19h45. That was the longest to date but there were many other times when it took me 2 hours or so, just one way. Readers of this article living in these parts will have many similar stories. I don’t think it’s that different in Cape Town.

But it’s tough, actually more frustrating. You feel trapped. If someone messes up, you pay the price and there is no escape. The fermented frustration becomes anger. And in the midst of everything the petrol price keeps going up, up, up. All of this contributes to the pressure building in the mind of the average South African motorist.  Add to that the  problems in our society. Unhappy workers go on strike and that can also cause havoc on the roads. While driving often the radio is your only companion and curious as we are, seldom miss a news bulletin. And as it goes the bad news always outweigh the good news. The good news typically is that the petrol is only going up next week, not today already. Add to that the sport where one’s team(s) buckle under the pressure and you have a recipe for human time-bomb.

In 2005 South Africa ranked the worst in research conducted by Synovate in 10 countries like: Greece, France, USA, Brazil, Malaysia, India, Korea, Taiwan and the UK. It involved more than 4000 respondents who ‘all showed significant levels of aggression on the road.’ Albert McLean the CEO cautioned that the higher rate of admissions itself points to another cause for concern. ‘We may be witnessing that aggression and road rage are becoming more acceptable social behaviour in South Africa. It is the very acceptance of this behaviour that will surely see an increase in aggression on our roads.’

‘Aggressive road behaviours were positively related with erratic changing of lanes, not maintaining an adequate following distance, driving above the posted speed limit and running red traffic lights. Drinking and driving was also a major contributor and predictor of higher levels of aggressive behaviour. Carrying a weapon while driving (weapon in this typically refers to a firearm) was also a strong predictor of higher levels of such behaviour. It would seem that drivers carrying a fire arm are 3x more likely to engage in higher levels of aggressive behaviour.’

Houston, we have a problem!

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