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Sorting out the road carnage

25 January 2013, 15:33

As I am sure is the case with most South Africans, I was really shocked by the carnage on the road over the 2012 festive season, this despite the extensive, if ineffective and misguided ad campaigns that ran on TV and radio and in print. Alcohol seems to be one of the major contributing factors in this.

For what it is worth, allow me to throw in my two cents.

Advert campaign

It is quite senseless to use children in radio campaigns telling one another about how bad it is to drink and drive or to speed – this has no credibility, especially as the kids used in the ads use words well above what is normal vocabulary for their age groups. No one will take this seriously.

Increased police presence

While this may have helped, it would require traffic officers actually doing something other than sitting in their cars, either sleeping or reading newspapers (or BBM’s) or congregating in groups to chat.

I was stopped once, asked for my driver’s licence (which I produced) and was then asked if I have outstanding speed fines, to which I replied in the negative. This was accepted by the officer who waved me on. Another officer did take down my registration details – to what effect and for what cause?

What is required?

Since reading The Tipping Point, I was wondering what effective measures could be introduced to stop the carnage and, after due consideration, came to the conclusion that neither of the above will ever do it.

What is required is to sort out the root cause of the problem and that is driver behaviour. Here I am talking about most motorist, irrespective of race.

Root cause

I believe we need to start in the Jhb city centre. The action required may sound drastic but it could be the tipping point. Import fifty to a hundred traffic officers from outside Johannesburg and ticket and or arrest every driver that breaks the law. Using outsiders reduces the chance of personal threats and the likelihood of bribery. Do this consistently for 6 months.

At the same time, clean up the areas around the taxi ranks on a daily basis. People will be made aware of how good a clean area looks – in time they will start taking pride in the taxi ranks and will start cleaning it themselves


Although taxi drivers are not the only culprits on the road (they contest for the spot with SUV and German-car drivers for this honour), I believe that the average motorist get so disheartened by the totally unlawful and arrogant attitude of taxi drivers, that they, instead of raising the latter up to their level, no sink down to the level of the taxi driver because they do not see any consequence against the lawbreakers. If we sort out the bad driving in the city centre, it will spread to the city outskirts, and eventually the open roads, by itself.

All that is required is a local government with a bit of guts to implement this. If they could reduce crime in New York and clean up the subways by starting in one area, and applying the law consistently throughout, so can we.

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