What it's like using taxis in SA: 'Violent, aggressive and unsafe'

Minibus taxis park at a rank in Sandton. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)
Minibus taxis park at a rank in Sandton. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)

One in three taxi commuters in SA feel that minibus taxis are "very" or "somewhat" unsafe, a new report has found.

The Public Perceptions of Taxi Use, Safety and Crime report, prepared by the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) in conjunction with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom is designed to highlight the experiences of people who travel by taxi.

"It's not directed at government. The taxi industry is an industry that does not enjoy scrutiny and what we wanted to illustrate is that it's fundamental to public transport," Gareth van Onselen, head of politics and government at the IRR, told News24 on Tuesday.

The report found that half of survey respondents had witnessed taxi drivers breaking the law and 46% of taxi commuters believe that drivers are "very or somewhat" aggressive on the roads, compared to 49% of national respondents (which includes non-commuters as well).

Overall, the biggest threat to safety on the roads according to survey respondents, is drunk driving. Among minibus taxi users, 56% identified drunk driving as a safety threat, compared to 53% of national respondents.

'Public service'

The survey was meant to indicate what problems South Africans experience with taxi commuting, rather than a push for additional legislation or policy.

"It's [the report] really just a public service; this is how taxi users feel. It's giving a voice to people who use taxis that hasn't been done before," said Van Onselen.

The report predictably found that the biggest concern for taxi users was being involved in an accident (45%), given the behaviour of drivers, but 17% of users were more concerned about being a victim of violence between taxis and, for 12% of people, there was concern about being assaulted or robbed while walking to or from a taxi stop.

Also read: Bellville residents fear for their safety after shootings lead to taxi rank closure

"We didn't go into great detail on violence and we didn't get into the causes. The most interesting thing was that the levels were far higher in Gauteng than in KwaZulu-Natal," said Van Onselen.

When asked about their main concerns related to taxi road safety, the top three concerns were: drunk driving (55%); overloading (50%); disregard for the rules of the road (43%).

On February 23, a taxi accident in the Ncwadi area of KwaZulu Natal, caused one death and 11 injuries, ER24 reported.

"Paramedics assessed the patients and found that the taxi driver, a man in his 30s, had sustained numerous injuries and showed no signs of life. Nothing could be done for him and he was declared dead," Russel Meiring, ER24 Corporate Communications officer said in a brief statement at the time.

Respect for the law

The emergency medical service provider also reported 30 injuries in a crash between two taxis, a truck and a bakkie on the R114 in Nietgedacht, north of Johannesburg on February 22.

"On assessment, paramedics found that at least four people were in a critical condition while twenty-six others had sustained minor to serious injuries. Fortunately, no fatalities were on the scene," Meiring said.

The Public Perceptions of Taxi Use, Safety and Crime report gives an indication of the lack of respect for the law,with 43% of respondents saying they had witnessed a driver offering a bribe to avoid a fine, and 44% saying they had witnessed a driver being unable to produce a driving licence.

The report was compiled in December 2018 and comprised a representative sample of 1 237 adults in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

Taxi graphic. (Graphics24)

Get the full report here.

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