Dumi’s Digest: Will the carnage on our roads ever end?

2013-12-30 10:00

My road trip on December 20 was no different from the others I had taken this year.

Besides my hometown friend, who had come to visit, my three sons and I, as the driver, are regulars on these trips to see my folks in Matsulu, east of Nelspruit in Mpumalanga.

Since it was not the usual load of passengers, I made counting part of the trip.

So, soon after joining the N12 after the Eastgate mall, I started my mission to count. A strange but important count, I kept telling myself.

Soon after, I saw a highway patrol vehicle of the SA Police Service on the side of the road.

I usually see them parked under bridges and off-ramps during my other trips.

After Daveyton, and with the promise of Mpumalanga on the horizon, I saw a roadblock manned by police and traffic officers where overloaded vehicles on their way to Mozambique were being stopped.

By the time we hit Witbank, I had counted at least six sets of police on the road?–?either having stopped a motorist or just maintaining visibility.

I saw many more officers on the road along the N4. I had lost count by the time I had passed Nelspruit.

This was in stark contrast to the other occasions I have travelled this route, when I had seen a few or no traffic officers on the roads.

I was reminded of this when traffic authorities this week released figures that 856 people had perished on our national roads since December 1.

The reasons for these deaths were attributed to dangerous overtaking, speeding and driving under the influence of alcohol. I can add to these overloading, unroadworthy vehicles, reckless and negligent driving, incompetent drivers, fatigue and so on.

We now wait for a date somewhere from January 10 onwards to hear if there were fewer deaths at this time last year. After this announcement, the roads will return to normal.

By normal, I mean fewer traffic and police officers on our roads.

Some will hide under trees and bridges trapping motorists for speeding, but hardly removing unroadworthy vehicles from the roads or checking whether drivers have valid driver’s licences.

This will be the norm until Easter, when officers in their numbers will be deployed on the roads once again.

After Easter, there will be another break until this time next year and the circle will continue like this every year.

I appreciate that we are a nation that moves quickly from one issue to another. Look how quickly we have moved on from mourning the passing of Nelson Mandela.

As soon as Mandela was buried, we moved on to other news. It was no surprise that, just days after the burial, trade union Numsa called on President Jacob Zuma to resign over the massive expenditure of taxpayers’ money on his private residence at Nkandla.

Not long after that, the ministerial task team?–?which investigated the spending on Nkandla?–?released its report.

The report got us talking (and writing) about whether the president has a swimming pool or a fire pool at his house.

That news kept us going for a few days, but the road deaths were already lurking in the background.

Government has implemented some plans to curb road deaths over the years, but the carnage has not stopped.

These deaths cannot be blamed on government or drivers alone. It will take a concerted effort by government and all road users to ensure that the carnage is stopped.

Drivers need to adhere to the rules of the road while officers have to enforce traffic laws.

Heightened visibility only during Easter and December holidays is clearly not enough to curb the road death toll.

This visibility should happen every day on our roads until drivers’ behaviour improves and respect for other roads users is enhanced.

Until then, we will continue going full circle while our people continue to perish on our roads.

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