Time to clean up our act
While I adore my job, I am not very proud of this industry’s “accomplishments” right now …
I say “accomplishments” because, according to my trusty Oxford (yes I do still have one and yes it is made out of paper and it has pages that I turn with my fingers), this noun is defined as being “something that has been achieved successfully” or “an activity that one can do well”.
I have always believed that an “accomplishment” is something of which to be proud. Clearly, not necessarily.
In this case, I have used the word correctly – because I am anything but proud of what we, as an industry, have achieved successfully. This is because our single greatest achievement seems to be to cause havoc – and, in some cases, death – on South Africa’s roads.
As I write this, I have been looking at utterly ghastly photographs of an accident involving two trucks on the West Rand. (Gary Ronald alludes to this accident in this month’s FOCUS too; turn to page 8 to read his latest Skid Marks column.) The wreckage is so bad that it’s absolutely impossible to distinguish the make of the vehicles involved; they are a horrendous spaghetti of metal. I don’t want to jump to conclusions; that would be irresponsible. But it appears that the cause of the accident was one truck, which veered off the road, ploughing into numerous other vehicles in the process. The result (apart from the mutilated vehicles)? At least five deaths and families shattered.
Last week, I was looking at similar footage from the N3. I couldn’t tell the make of vehicle involved in the accident – reports said it was a Nissan Almera. The car was driving on the N3 near Escort when a truck rammed into the back of the sedan, completely obliterating the back of the car. Incredibly the four occupants of the Nissan survived. Looking at photographs of the mutilated car, I cannot understand how.
Now, being in the industry, we all know the likely causes of accidents like these: brake failure, speeding, driver error or poor vehicle maintenance. Maybe it was none of the above; maybe it was just really rotten luck. I doubt it; in the case of the accident on the West Rand, the road is incredibly steep (so much so that there have been calls for trucks to be banned from it). My money’s on brake failure …
If these were isolated incidents, I wouldn’t be writing this. But they form part of a bigger picture – and that bigger picture is far too gloomy.
And it’s not limited to truck drivers either.
I dance with death each and every day en route to work. Yesterday I saw a massive accident involving three taxis en route home. I wondered how the lives of the people within those taxis had been affected …
But recently, it does appear as though trucks have grabbed the royal share of headlines in this country – and for all the wrong reasons.
The traffic cops aren’t doing nearly enough to fix the situation or apprehend the offenders. They prefer to hide behind bushes and make easy money from speeding motorists. They prey on and abuse innocent road users (if I had a euro for every incident of abuse at roadblocks, I would be a millionaire … in rand terms anyway).
So the cops aren’t going to rectify the matter. Instead, it’s up to us. This industry needs to clean up its act. It needs to move off this murderous path. It’s as pure and simple as that.