Danger on our roads

2019-05-26 16:10
In March, a biker and a pedestrian suffered injuries when they were involved in an accident. The pedestrian was left with serious injuries and the biker was flung from the bike and left unconscious. The bike landed several metres away from its driver.

In March, a biker and a pedestrian suffered injuries when they were involved in an accident. The pedestrian was left with serious injuries and the biker was flung from the bike and left unconscious. The bike landed several metres away from its driver.

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You’re in your car driving through Pietermaritzburg on an open stretch of road and a pedestrian dashes across the road in front of you, making you slam on the brakes.

Or you’re waiting to go through a robot and long after the traffic light is red, pedestrians carry on walking in front of the traffic that has right of way.

Or you’re driving at night, and all of a sudden there’s a drunk man lurching around in the road in front of your car, oblivious to the danger he’s in.

Msunduzi Municipality spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said pedestrian-related accidents remain a big issue for authorities in the city. “It is happening throughout the city,” she said.

Mafumbatha said although pedestrians were at risk because they shared road space with motorists, the risk was exacerbated by people crossing roads unsafely.  “Pedestrians just cross the road willy nilly. They have no regard for the rules. They are not concerned about safety for themselves and other road users.”

“Pedestrians dice with death as they weave and run between busy lanes, on East Street, Commercial Road and West Street, which makes this a high fatality location for pedestrians. What makes it even more problematic is that it is happening within 50 metres of a much safer pedestrian crossing at the traffic light,” Mafumbatha pointed out.

She said Pietermaritzburg had places that had been identified as “problem areas”, where dangerous crossings were common, and remedial measures had been taken by building pavements dedicated to pedestrians and cyclists like on Moses Mabhida Road.

Recent incidents

This week, The Witness reported that three people were left injured after they were involved in pedestrian-related accidents.

In the first accident on Monday, a 20-year-old man was hit by a car on Commercial Road. He suffered numerous injuries and was in a serious condition.

In the second accident on Tuesday, two people were injured when they were hit by a car in Allandale.

The pair had been walking along Manchester Road when the accident happened. One of the pedestrians, who was found lying in the middle of the road, received serious injuries, while the other suffered moderate injuries.

In March, a minibus ploughed into four pupils in Dumisani Makhaye Drive in Durban — killing three and seriously injuring another.

The three pupils, aged between 13 and 14 years, had been on their way to school when the taxi skidded off the road and ran into them.

Advocate Johan Jonck of Arrive Alive said the reason for these accidents are two-fold and can range from badly lit roads to motorists who are not focused.

“Motorists are not focusing enough on the roads, maybe travelling at times when they are fatigued and are not seeing the pedestrians.

“At other times, pedestrians are not making themselves seen … we also find pedestrians crossing over roads they should not be crossing over,” he said.

Jonck said while drivers should limit cell phone use while driving, pedestrians should also limit distractive activities.

He said the rise in the use of personal electronics was the main ingredient in the recipe for disaster.

“When pedestrians are using mobile cell phones, distracted attention may increase their risk of accidents. We find a lot of people text messaging, on the phone, looking down or listening to music on their iPods,” Jonck said.

Richard Benson of the Road Safety Action Campaign (RSAC) said more traffic officers were needed to police the roads.

“We only have 20 000 traffic officers who have to do three shifts a day. This includes weekends, public holidays as well as court sometimes. “This also affects the shortage and you find only 3 000 traffic police on the road.”

Benson said offences policed in other countries like jaywalking had become the norm and local authorities with other priorities in mind, had simply “given up”.

“Take a walk down any street in any South African city and try to count how often people walk across the road wherever it suits them, walk across to the middle of the road and wait for traffic to clear from there, zigzag through cars to get across the road, ignore traffic lights and road signs, saunter along the road or dash across fast-moving traffic.”

According to the Transport Department the number of jaywalking pedestrians killed on the roads in 2018 had increased to 38% as compared to 25,2% in 2017. Benson said speed was also a contributing factor for the spike in pedestrian-related accidents.

“Countries which have had a problem like ours solved it by lowering speed limits to 100 km/h on an open road and sometimes as low as 30 km/h on suburban roads. If someone is hit at 30 km per hour there is more chance of survival.”

Barriers from vehicles needed

South Africans against Drunk Driving (SADD) founder and road safety expert, Caro Smit, said more emphasis was put on the safety of motorists rather than pedestrians.

Smit said there was a need to separate pedestrians from vehicles on the roads.

“In the Safe Systems approach we need pedestrians and other vulnerable road users separated by barriers from vehicles.”

Smit said while there were pavements, street vendors took up so much space and pedestrians were pushed into the road.

“In some cases, the pavements are damaged or have holes in them and pedestrians are forced to use the road.”

She said a “lack of visibility” also put pedestrians at risk. “A lot of the pedestrians aren’t very visible. They [pedestrians] are not seen easily and some of them walk the roads intoxicated and their peripheral vision is impaired. Others cross highways which is illegal.” — WWR.

Disregarding traffic laws

In response to the spike in pedestrian deaths on the country’s highways, the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) built fences along vulnerable sections of the N3 and N2.

Fencing was also erected between Chota Motala Bridge and Chatterton Road on the N3 Pietermaritzburg as well as on the N3 at Cliffdale and a two-kilometre section of the N2 at KwaMashu.

The Department of Transport in the province admitted that the disregarding of traffic laws was behind the spike in the recent pedestrian-related crashes.

“Some pedestrians and motorists, be it buses or taxis, are continuing to disregard the traffic laws,” said the department’s spokesperson Mluleki Mntungwa.

Mntungwa said most pedestrians were not treating road safety as a collective responsibility, which was making the situation worse.

“There is a lot of power that lies with pedestrians,” he said. — WWR.


Safety of pedestrians: List by Arrive Alive

• Stay on the sidewalk and crosswalks. Avoid walking in traffic where there are no sidewalks or crosswalks. If you have to walk on a road that does not have sidewalks, walk facing traffic.

• Cross at intersections. Most people are hit by cars when they cross the road at places other than intersections.

• Stop at the curb and look right, left and right again for traffic. Stopping at the curb signals drivers that you intend to cross. Cross in marked crosswalks and obey the signal.

• Drivers need to see you to avoid you. Make sure you are seen. Stay out of the driver’s blind spot, make eye contact with drivers when crossing busy streets and wear bright colours or reflective clothing if you are walking near traffic at night.

Joggers take note

Safety during a run: List by Arrive Alive  

• Always stay alert and aware of what’s going on around you. The more aware you are, the less vulnerable you are.

• Think about possible escape routes in case of a confrontation.

• Run clear of parked cars, bushes and dark areas.

• Be extra vigilant at junctions with alleyways where traffic may emerge.

• Run across the street at crosswalks and always pay attention to traffic lights.

• Drivers have a bad habit of not looking for pedestrians. Be sure to make eye contact before crossing in front of a car. Never assume you have been seen!

• Be considerate of other road and pavement users. Do not force pedestrians into the road and do not step off the pavement without checking behind you — cyclists don’t make noise.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  pedestrians

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