SA’s deadly cocktail

SA's deadly cocktail

We know the dangers associated with drinking and driving, but there is an even more dangerous cocktail that South African motorists need to wake up to.

I was fortunate enough to spend the festive season gallivanting around the Fairest Cape. The weather was fantastic, the beaches full of people, the sights and sounds intoxicating. At the end of a long year, no-one could have asked for anything better as an end to 2012 and start to 2013.

Unless we’re talking about the family and friends of the 1 465 people who lost their lives in the 1 221 fatal accidents between December 1 and January 8.

Those are appalling figures, and by now I’m sure you have seen and heard the many expressions of disgust about them – from all spheres of society.

In his festive season road safety campaign report, Transport Minister Ben Martins listed the following as the leading accident causes during the period: drunken driving, excessive speeding, dangerous overtaking, not using seatbelts, and unroadworthy vehicles. This in addition to pedestrians, “most of whom had walked onto roads while drunk”. (Pedestrians made up a reported 40 percent of
the deaths.)

While these issues are made example of during the holiday period, the sad reality is that the situation is no different any other day. What is different is the fact that, unless there is a specific horrific event, road accidents just aren’t regarded as news. Truth is, South Africa has one of the highest road fatality rates in the world – consistently. And we aren’t doing anything meaningful about it.

I think I know why. Most of us have an attitude comprising a deadly cocktail of arrogance and ignorance, served up in a tall glass of “It’ll never happen to me” apathy. Add in a dash of bitters in the shape of inadequate law enforcement and government departments that pretend to know what they’re doing – when clearly they don’t – and it’s a deadly serving.

Being mostly truckers, our readers know that cargo needs to be placed properly for correct weight distribution and secured properly to keep it there; ensuring the stability of the vehicle and limiting the carnage in the event of an accident. Why then should motorists’ attitudes to their passenger’s (usually their own children) safety be any different? Sadly, they are.

I witnessed the perfect example the other day. Evening rush hour. I had just left the office travelling up Joburg’s busy Beyers Naude Drive. What passed me I could hardly believe: a metro police officer, in a marked car and full uniform, with a young child bouncing around on the back seat. Every single point made above, in one official car; it was the epitome of “I am the law” arrogance and “nothing can happen to me” ignorance.

If there’s one thing that upsets me deeply on the roads, this is it. Sadly, I see it everyday; from mothers, fathers, and even traffic officials who should know (and show) better. Why? Is it inadequate training, arrogance, ignorance or apathy? I would say all of the above. These drivers are clearly either too full of themselves or too stupid to care.

What they don’t realise is that, in the event of a collision where even one of the minister’s stated leading causes is present, their incorrectly placed and unsecured “cargo” (passengers not wearing seatbelts and perhaps not even seated at all) results in the human equivalent of what we see when a truck loses its load.

Surely nobody needs the law or government to tell them that. Until the day it happens. But even then, such an event will merely be passed off as a tragic accident rather than what it really is: the tragic “effect” of an altogether avoidable cocktail of “causes”. 

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