Shoes a sad picture of death

2009-11-14 00:00

TRAFFIC on one of Pietermaritzburg’s main roads was strangely slow during morning rush hour traffic yesterday. Many drivers reduced speed to stare, some hooted and waved, while others averted their eyes and looked guilty.

The cause of this unusual beha­viour was a sobering sight. About 9 000 pairs of shoes were laid out between a forest of crosses on the traffic island, between the city-bound and out-bound routes of Chatterton Road, near the traffic circle. There was footwear of every shape, size and colour: huge workmen’s boots lay next to tiny babies’ takkies, a pair of spangled ladies’ sandals nestled beside spivvy trainers and row upon and row of rubber slops stretched into the city. Each pair represented someone killed in a traffic accident on South African roads.

Sadd (South Africans Against Drunk Driving) mounted the display to mark World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims tomorrow. Sadd set out to collect 18 000 pairs of good used shoes, one for each of the people who die on South African roads every year. The organisation Reach Out With Love will distribute the shoes to people in the France community.

Members of Maritzburg College’s Interact Club and Sadd volunteers, wearing “Buckle up” T-shirts, stood on the island and interacted with passing drivers. In particular, they encouraged those not wearing seat belts to put them on.

“The men are worse than the women,” said Treya Montgomery, College teacher and Interact facilitator. “Most women buckled up, but many men, especially youngsters, didn’t seem to care.

“We even saw two police cars and a traffic vehicle where the drivers weren’t wearing belts, and six children kneeling on the front passenger seat, also without belts. Few taxi drivers were wearing belts and they were the most resistant when we spoke to them.”

Caro Smit, founder of Sadd, said: “We have been amazed by how many people do not wear seat belts. If they did, the number of people killed in accidents would be cut by 30%.

“Our road accident rate is not acceptable and the number of deaths is still escalating alarmingly. I recently counselled a young man of 21 who had already lost seven friends — mostly because of drunk driving. Another 23-year-old had lost nine friends or family members.

“We quote the statistics as if they were a maths sum. They are not. They are people who died, were killed or severely injured. They are people who wore shoes every day and should have walked into the future in those shoes …

“We sit back expecting road safety officials to make the difference. Why must they do it alone? We can work together to make a difference … Let’s also be a nation that obeys the traffic laws.”

A recent story called Maritzburg the “Drunk Driving capital” of the province, after statistics showed that city residents constituted more than two thirds of the people caught for drinking and driving in the province in October last year — 617 of more than 900 people.

Transport, Community Safety and Liaison MEC Willies Mchunu has warned local drivers and pedestrians against behaving irresponsibly during the forthcoming holiday season.

“… We urge all road users to do a very simple thing: ‘Do Right — observe the rules of the road or pay the price’,” he said.

Contact Sadd at 033 347 0103; e-mail: or log on to their website at

This annual day is held on the third Sunday in November and is recognised by the United Nations. It was started in 1992 by a U.S. mother, Brigitte Chaudry, whose 26-year-old son was killed by a driver who shot a red robot. It is intended to remember the loss and suffering of road victims and their families, plus rescuers and relief workers, including fire, police and ambulance personnel, doctors, nurses and counsellors.

According to the Sadd website, “It responds to the great need of road crash victims for public recognition, which is so readily given to victims of other types of disaster. The day provides an opportunity to draw the public’s attention to road crashes, their consequences and costs, and the measures that can be taken to prevent them. It also provides an opportunity to remind governments and society of their responsibility to make roads safer.”

45 people die (3 children)

410 injured

25 paralysed

700 000 car crashes/year

R52 000 000 000/year — annual cost of accidents

90% of crashes caused by breaking vehicle and pedestrian rules

50% caused by drunk drivers

300 times more likely to die in a car accident than be murdered

10- to 24-year-olds’ main cause of death: road crashes

One in 15 drivers on the road at night are drunk

30% of deaths preventable by use of front and back seatbelts

Wear seat belts.

Buckle up your children.

Keep within the speed limit.

Go slower when it rains.

Don’t have road rage.

Don’t overtake in dangerous situations.

Don’t drink then drive.

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