‘Passengers have power’

2017-08-24 13:33
A taxi landed on its side, nearly crashing into a building on Pietermaritz Street after the taxi and a car collided at the intersection of Chapel and Pietermaritz Street on March?1, 2016.

A taxi landed on its side, nearly crashing into a building on Pietermaritz Street after the taxi and a car collided at the intersection of Chapel and Pietermaritz Street on March?1, 2016. (Ian Carbutt)

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A culture of lawlessness, lack of political will and traffic congestion are to blame for KZN’s recent road carnage.

Five people died on Tuesday night when a taxi collided with a bus in Newcastle.

On Sunday, 20 people died in a horror crash when a minibus taxi overturned in KwaXimba, Cato Ridge.

Earlier this month, six people died in Dalton, outside Pietermaritzburg, when two taxis collided head on.

Traffic experts said clamping down on lawless motorists and reducing the speed limit could result in fewer accidents and road deaths.

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 RSAC has worked out that there is a shortage of approximately 100 000 traffic police officers in the country.

He added that another contributing factor to the spike in road carnage was speed.

“Countries which had a problem like ours solved it by lowering speed limits to 100 km/h on an open road and sometimes as low as 20 km/h on suburban roads.”

Caro Smith, founder and director of South Africans Against Drink Driving, agreed that if there more measures attached to road safety, car crashes could be preventable.

“There is too little testing of our cars done in KwaZulu-Natal.

“We need to intensify the testing for alcohol and also enforce the seat belt law. We need to be more pro-active rather than reactive to stop the crashes.”

Advocate Johan Jonck of Arrive Alive said that it was important to analyse and evaluate road crashes.

“More conclusive and in-depth investigations should be done to get to the root of the cause.

“After a crash, we need to pinpoint a number of factors to see if there is a common theme we need to address.”

The Department of Transport in the province admitted that the disregarding of traffic laws was behind the spike in the recent road carnage.

“Both operators and drivers in the public transport space, be it buses or taxis, are continuing to use unroadworthy vehicles,” said the department’s spokesperson Nathi Sukazi, adding that some of these vehicles had poor or worn-out braking systems.

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

“There is a lot of power that lies with passengers,” he said.

In efforts to curb the scourge, Sukazi said the department will:

Increase visibility of traffic law enforcement officers working in local municipalities;

Revisit the government system that issues driving licences; and

Engage taxi associations, driving schools and different sectors of the community.

Santaco KZN spokesperson Mandla Mzelemu said it was sad that some accidents were as a result of negligence on part of drivers.

He called for tough action against those found to be in violation of traffic laws.

“Government needs to be tough.

“This thing of issuing fines when traffic officers come across unroadworthy cars is not working.

“They must consider impounding them because if they do not, they will be back on the road the following day,” he said.

"Punishment Must serve as deterrent" 

DA KZN spokesperson on Transport Rafeek Shah said there needed to be tougher penalties to end the carnage.

“I have written to the MEC asking him to engage with the Department of Justice.

“There must be a review for penalties for traffic offenders. Maybe we need a special court to speedily process these cases.

“Punishment must serve as a deterrent. Unscrupulous taxi drivers are playing with the lives of people and it is a huge burden to our provincial fiscus and social services,” he said.

IFP provincial spokesperson on Transport Steven Moodley said he had called on the department to consider the granting of taxi subsidies to avoid the carnage.

“This will also serve to regulate the industry which is largely characterised by lawlessness and competitive behaviour on the part of drivers who are concerned more about money than the lives they are responsible for,” said Moodley.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  road accidents

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