Bakkie laws don’t protect passengers

2008-10-28 00:00

It is surprising there weren’t more deaths in the accident that claimed four young lives on Sunday.

This was the sobering view of Gary Ronald, spokesman for the Automobile Association (AA), as he reflected on the circumstances of the tragic accident that has rocked the Pietermaritzburg community.

The accident occurred in the early hours of Sunday morning when a bakkie loaded with 12 passengers crashed on the N3 near the Market Road off-ramp. The occupants were flung out of the vehicle, resulting in four deaths and seven injuries.

Concerns have been raised that the vehicle may have been overloaded and that the tyres of the vehicle did not match.

Ronald spoke out against South Africa’s road law, which makes it legal for people to be transported in open vehicles.

He said that the practice of carrying people on the back of a bakkie has been accepted “since bakkies were invented” and that it is a convenient way for workers to be transported, but one that all too often ends in fatal consequences.

According to the Arrive Alive website, there are no safety requirements protecting passengers on the back of a bakkie, except for the height of the sides. The number of people that may be carried is not limited.

“If we had to take road safety seriously, we should ban the transportation of people on open vehicles,” said Ronald.

He added that if a bakkie that had a canopy was in an accident and rolled, the canopy would invariably separate from the body of the bakkie and the same scenario would occur, in that people would be flung out.

“The fibreglass of the canopy shatters,” he said.

Commenting on allegations of mistmatching tyres, Ronald said that in dry weather, this would not pose too much of a problem, but in wet conditions, it becomes dangerous.

“In dry weather, the grip is not affected much, but in wet weather each tyre has a different way of displacing the water,” he said.

Ronald also expressed concern about the fact that there were 12 people on the vehicle.

“Supposing there were even three people in the front: this would mean the driver was squashed up and probably could not control the vehicle properly — especially when he lost control. It would have been a tight squeeze.”

He said that 12 adults meant that the bakkie was probably near its weight limit.

“If you work on 65 kg per person, with 12 people this would affect handling and braking performance.”

Ronald cautioned that with the upcoming festive season parties, more young people will die in road accidents.

The driver of the bakkie was found to be sober when tested after the crash. Four counts of culpable homicide have been opened, but no one has been charged. Police are investigating the alleged overloading and roadworthiness of the bakkie.

Seven passengers were injured and four, including two matric pupils, were killed.

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