Let’s fight SA’s road carnage

2019-03-28 09:30

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Frustrated road safety expert Caro Smit, tells of dealing with SA drivers:

I, too, have decided to let you into my world of preventable road carnage, family heartache, deaths, and severe injuries. Of frustrations that people don’t take #PersonalResponsibilty for their actions, and justify their behaviours. Of thinking this carnage is an “accident”, whereas they are usually preventable “crashes” caused by human errors. Of thinking “it’s God’s will that he/she died.”

Of my world where people think “it won’t happen to me”; “I’m a good driver”; “I can brace myself in an ‘accident’ so don’t need a seatbelt”; or the best of all — “I am absolutely OK after a few drinks, as I have never had an ‘accident’ before!”

The world where so-called intelligent people complain about taxi drivers disobeying the laws of the road and then happily disobey the laws themselves.

Where smart people become distracted while talking on their cell phones, drifting dangerously across traffic lanes as they plan their next coffee date. Beep beep “Coffee at Mugg and Bean at 10? RSVP.” “Awesome. Can’t wait. Will be there! “ or Beep Beep: “Meet me at the pub for beer bru?” “Definitely! Can’t wait! Thirsty like a dog.” Twenty seconds of the eyes and brain being off the road is #DistractedDriving. In that time a cyclist or pedestrian could have crossed the road in front of them, and they would not have seen them.

The norm of aiming to be the “life and soul of the party”, or boasting about drinking the most; the last to leave the party or dancing on the table after maybe too many drinks to be safe? But, hey, the cops aren’t around so I won’t get caught and its only five kilometres to home and I don’t feel “drunk”. Happy, jolly, impulsive, overconfident, impaired, and extremely dangerous to self and others on the road, but definitely not “drunk”.

Its now called #DrinkDriving because it’s the drink/alcohol that affects the driving, not whether the person looks or feels “drunk”.

But there are many solutions. We need to all #GetInvolved, #BeTheChange, and take #PersonalResponsibility. Buy a personal multi-use breathalyser if you are worried about your alcohol level or about “drink driving” in your family. If they are over the legal limit, then institute some #consequences.

Remove the right to drive the vehicle for a few weeks. Make them take an Uber. Or even be drastic and have an alcohol ignition interlock installed, which acts as an immobiliser if they are over the limit, and send them for alcohol education and/or counselling.

My world where people see evidence of carnage at crashes, and know that in fact bodies do not remain stationary when the vehicle hits an object at high speed, but continue to move in the vehicle, or through the windscreen at that same speed of impact, because they were not restrained.

It’s in the papers every day.

Seat-belts were designed to save lives, and apart from anything else it is the law to buckle everyone up — front and back! But then South Africans don’t really like to be told what to do, do we? We don’t want to become a nanny state either, do we? Nor, I think, do we want to become paralysed because we didn’t #BuckleUp.

I get so frustrated in this world where parents love their children dearly and then don’t buckle them up! #BeTheAdult! Secure your child in the appropriate seat for their age.

We know that children imitate parents’ behaviour, so as parents we need to act as positive role models. Never use cell phones while in a car; stop at orange lights; never speed; don’t drive after drinking; and continuously teach safer driving tips.

We need to discuss driving slowly with them, especially when they are new drivers, as the first year after getting their licence is the most dangerous time for crashes to happen.

#SpeedKillsSkills: the faster you go the less control you have and the more severe the impact of a collision is. It’s a fact that crashes are the leading cause of death in youngsters from five to 29 years; boys are especially vulnerable as they are killed at a rate of 4:1 versus girls. We need to concentrate on saving our male children by enforcing evidence-based methods of saving lives.

I am frustrated at parents who immediately give their sons another car after they have smashed the first one up. What is this telling them?

Why do we sit back and accept this carnage on our roads? We are horrified that 157 people died in the Ethiopian Air crash, yet we accept the equivalent number of road deaths of a plane crash happening every four days in South Africa.

People need to know that if they drink then drive, they will be stopped and breathalysed and get a criminal record, that if they speed or don’t wear a seatbelt they will be stopped and fined. In fact, the only thing that will help bring down our preventable carnage is if we get involved. #SpeakUp. Write to the government and demand better enforcement.

I have been involved in road safety now for 13 years and each year I become more and more dismayed by our increasing and yet very preventable carnage. Each time someone dies, a part of me is re-traumatised.

My world is a world of compromises for myself. I don’t like to be a witness to other people’s bad decision making which could have disastrous outcomes for themselves and/or others. Just by being at parties I am often other people’s conscience, which makes both me and them feel uncomfortable. I am often judged as being too serious, an old nag bag, and a party pooper!

This is my world, because this is South Africa and not a first-world country where #RoadSafety is a priority.

It’s sometimes quite an uncomfortable and sad world I live in, but if not me then who?”

-Caro Smit (Hilton)

• Are you a resident with a burning issue you’d like to share your opinion about with Weekend Witness readers? E-mail stephs@witness.co.za with the heading ‘Over to you’. If it meets our criteria of being engaging and of wide interest, we’ll consider publishing it. Please include your name, full address and phone number for your submission to be considered and keep your submissions to under 800 words please.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  road accidents
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