So, as the Western Cape is on a roll in pumping out new, progressive traffic bylaws, the local government has decided to throw a “we will cut the speed limit by 10 km/h” rumour into the wild. While I am not in the least opposed to this measure (putting aside for a moment the fact that enforcing the current speed limit seems to be a problem), I would like to know how this was picked as the best solution for improving traffic safety. Was a study done on all the accidents around Cape Town over a year (and there are MANY), and it was determined that speeding was the main cause?
I have been driving in and out of Cape Town every day for the better part of a decade, and I have seen more accidents than I’d care too. Speeding is a factor to be sure, but from what I have seen there are much more urgent problems that need to be taken on:
· To many slow cars – driving 60 to 80km/h on the highway should be just as illegal as driving 200km/h, even if it’s in the “slow” lane! I have seen countless old cars, old taxi’s, broken bakkies and the like limping along at suburban speeds on the N2 and N1. Sometimes the car’s fine, it’s just the driver slouching into the driver’s seat, barely peaking over the steering wheel, happily cruising along. Last December there were a record number of head-on collisions on the road. Government’s response was that drivers were no longer adhering to the rules of the road. Could it be perhaps that most of these drivers got stuck behind someone driving mind numbingly, infuriatingly slow on the highway, causing them to take risks they would not normally take in a desperate attempt to pass these road-turtles? I think so. And if you are on a really busy road with multiple lanes attempting to pass a really slow vehicle, you also have the dangerous task of switching lanes from behind a car going 60 km/h into a busy lane where the cars are going 120 km/h. In short, slow cars are DEADLY.
· Too many pedestrians on the highway – I started taking a new route to work about two-and-a-half years ago, driving down the N2 towards the city and then over the R300. In that time I have witnessed 8 pedestrians being hit by cars. That’s 8 that I happened to be there to see, no telling how many more were struck in that time that I did not see. Especially along the N2 where the informal settlements have been allowed to expand on both sides of the highway, giving more people a reason to cross multiple lanes of high speed traffic. A high wall in the middle of the road has not been deterrent enough, in fact I’ve seen people being carried a few steps into the road by the momentum of jumping over it. Seeing a man lying under a bakkie or body parts strewn along a hundred meters of tarmac is not a sight anyone wishes to see, less so on a regular basis. If need be, make the wall higher, or put up billboards with photos of the victims next to the road.
· Along with the increased pedestrian traffic, I see more-and-more cattle and goats on or next to the road. The huge lights along the N2 end a little way past the airport, so from here it’s highway speeds in pitch dark. One night I was driving in the fast lane and saw a cow’s head stick out from the bushes on my right, it’s face blurring past inches away from my driver’s seat window. The impromptu enclosures built within the informal settlements to hold these animals often break open, or a young Sheppard tries to bring his cattle as close to the road as possible to feed on the thick, green grass. Surely this cannot be permitted? I feel forced to coldly suggest that if a policeman comes across a cow or a goat close to the highway, he shoots it in the head. This sounds harsh but after a few have been culled, the owners will be more careful to not let the animals get loose. Having to choose between one cow and a family with kids or a taxi filled with commuters, I choose the humans.
· “Dark cars” - Finally, the Cape Town metro police are really abundant, and they do a good job most of the time (like having someone direct traffic where children cross the road daily). What I cannot understand for the life of me is that enforcing simple things like the 3 problems I mentioned above never happens. Especially when it comes to one of my biggest gripes: the amount of cars driving around at night with no lights. It’s unbelievable! Almost every night there are cars leaving the city with no rear lights, only one faint head light, or only parking lights. Driving towards Somerset West or on the R44 to Stellenbosch, you cannot see these cars until you are on them. Don’t tell me the cops do pull them over and I just haven’t seen it, because there are Metro police parked at the N2 - R44 turn-off every day (next to the weigh bridge) and they sit on their @sses and watch these people drive by without so much as flinching.
There are other problems like people driving way to close to each other at high speed, an act which comes to the fruitarian every time it rains because I see just about as many head-to-tail collisions as I do pedestrian accidents, but these are universal problems. I think the stuff I mentioned above are really basic and should in theory be covered by existing legislation. Once we are able to sort these problems out, then maybe we can worry about trying to enforce a new speed limit.
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