Reckless peak hour drivers

2015-08-26 11:26
Safe City camera operator Ntombenhle Ndlovu sifts through footage to identify suspects and detect criminal activity in Pietermaritzburg.

Safe City camera operator Ntombenhle Ndlovu sifts through footage to identify suspects and detect criminal activity in Pietermaritzburg. (Amil Umraw)

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LAWLESSNESS in Pietermaritzburg has the Safe City operators so concerned for the safety of traffic wardens that they constantly monitor them via their CCTV cameras to ensure they are not run over.

With errant drivers the cause of 60% of accidents in the CBD since January this year, Safe City

Pietermaritzburg ­director Lucas Holtzhausen said traffic wardens deployed to congested ­intersections were often exposed to reckless driving that put them in ­dangerous situations.

“Pietermaritzburg endures heavy traffic congestion from 7 am to 8.30 am, and again between 4 pm and 6 pm on weekdays. Wardens are deployed at busy intersections during this time to prevent gridlocking.

“As part of our job, we sit and watch these traffic wardens every day, because we have had incidents where the ­wardens have been run over by vehicles.”

With 177 vehicle accidents in central Pietermaritzburg between January and July this year, locals have voiced concern over the lawlessness of drivers and Msunduzi traffic officers’ inability to stop them.

A resident who would not be named said he had witnessed two accidents in the last two months caused by drivers not obeying the rules of the road.

“I was a witness in an accident where a pedestrian lost part of his leg due to a car speeding — driven recklessly and with no lights, and a witness to a partial head-on collision where a driver tried to overtake a truck on a blind rise and on a blind corner.”

He said last Sunday he saw a driver “blatantly run a red light” while a traffic warden looked on.

“I have seen people do the most shocking things on the road and it is ­getting worse.

“I don’t want to be negative, but this lack of law enforcement on the roads cannot continue,” said the resident.

However, Holtzhausen said wardens were sent to congested areas to ease ­traffic flow, but were not traffic officers and did not have law enforcement powers.

He said drivers should adhere to the rules of the road, whether there was a traffic officer on duty or not.

“Unfortunately drivers ignore red traffic signals, exceed the speed limit, enter intersections and cause gridlock situations, make U-turns and cross over solid barrier lines where not permitted.

“This type of lawless behaviour ­contributes to road rage and accidents on our roads.”

A police source who could not be named said the majority of accidents caused by drivers disobeying the rules of the road occurred on the new Church Street fly-over, the Alexandra fly-over, and on Pietermaritz and Chief ­Albert Luthuli streets.

“There are also lots of accidents around construction sites and traffic circles, because people do not obey the traffic bylaws,” said the source.

The majority of accidents involving pedestrians occurred on the roads ­leading to Liberty Midlands Mall and along Church Street.

Msunduzi municipal spokesperson Nqobile Madonda yesterday said the municipality had embarked on a ­“pro-active approach” to relieve ­congestion by sending wardens to ­perform traffic control functions at ­critical intersections.

She said constraints placed on the public safety department burdened its capacity to conduct consistent law ­enforcement on errant drivers during peak periods.

She said the municipality is in the process of addressing “the lack of ­capacity in the public safety ­department”, such as the employment of additional staff.

However, employment matters could not be resolved overnight, she said.

The lawlessness on Berg Street continues with complaints from residents who fear for the safety of their children.

Berg Street Primary principal Reshma Amritlal said yesterday the state of traffic on the street was “terrible”.

“We have reported it, sent out photos and the municipality has sent two traffic wardens in the morning and afternoon to help the children cross the street, but the situation remains the same.

“What would usually take one minute from Retief to Berg street now takes a 20-minute drive because of all the trucks and traffic, and our biggest concern is the lives of our children who walk on that road.”
A resident who would not be named said both Retief and Berg streets were extremely dangerous for pedestrians.

“In Berg Street, children’s lives are in danger because of speeding traffic and Retief Street is equally dangerous.”

The resident said these streets needed constant policing to enforce the rules of the road on lawless drivers.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  crime

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