Trucks of terror – really?

Fifteen people died when a taxi and a truck collided head-on, on the R41 in Randfontein, during April.

The National Minister of Transport, Dipuo Peters, says minibuses and trucks are to blame for the deaths on our roads. Really?

I have a stalker. One of our readers sends me regular (anonymous) SMSes. The person in question (I am assuming it is a male because of the tone) took exception to a tongue-in-cheek article that I wrote last year, after meeting Minister Dipuo Peters. He’s particularly peeved at the fact that we had a glass of wine together (incidentally, neither our minister of transport, nor yours truly was driving).

Our decadent alcoholic beverages are always mentioned in his many messages. “The way to improve road safety and keep death off the road is to have more drinks with the useless minister of transport” reads one SMS. “The way to reduce the carnage on our roads is to have more drinks with the minister” proclaims another.

Now I am certainly not here to fly the flag for the minister of transport. However, calling the poor woman “useless” is somewhat unkind. I certainly don’t agree with everything she says or does – I have made this very clear in the past – but she is far from the worst minister of transport we’ve had, or the most useless.

I believe in giving credit where due, and she has certainly added a sympathetic air to her ministry. After the recent long weekend (April 29 to May 2, which saw 179 fatal collisions and 237 lives lost), she really did seem moved by this massacre.

“This past long weekend was one of the saddest moments in the history of our country, with many lives lost on the roads and scores injured. In the recent past, things have looked much better and promising and we could see light at the end of the tunnel, but today things are so bad, really bad, that many of our people; fathers, mothers, children, the rich and the poor alike, are immensely affected by the scourge of road carnage that is mercilessly wiping out our loved ones,” she noted.

Peters was particularly perturbed by the four major collisions that claimed about 30 lives throughout the country. In Randfontein, 15 lives were lost when a truck collided with a minibus taxi. In George, five people were killed when a sports utility vehicle crashed into a sedan.

Nine people died when a minibus crashed into a trailer near Nyl Toll Plaza in Mokopane, Limpopo, and one person died in a multiple car collision involving four cars on the N2 between East London and Mooiplaas in the Eastern Cape.

“Most worrying are the causes of these major crashes, which include drunk driving, overtaking when it is unsafe to do so, reckless and negligent driving, as well as speeding,” she continued.

She then went on to apportion blame. “The major crashes were mainly caused by the minibuses and freight transport and this is quite a significant number and too ghastly to contemplate.” (sic)

I’m not sure that it’s entirely fair to blame our industry. Take the Randfontein accident, for instance – news reports have claimed that the truck was not to blame and that the taxi swerved into the truck.

Having said that, playing the blame game isn’t going to achieve anything.

So what is the solution then? Peters seems fairly upbeat. “We are not disillusioned, nor over ambitious. Nobody ever said that it will be easy. The road we traverse is full of challenges and there are many detours since this road is under construction. But this detour is nothing else but a temporary inconvenience, and this, too, shall come to pass,” (sic) she commented.

In order to rectify this situation, she has “instructed the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) to speed up the process of establishing the Traffic Law Enforcement Review Committee to deal, among others, with the determination of norms and standards for the traffic law enforcement fraternity, as well as the integration of all traffic law enforcers.”

“The intensified collaboration and engagement between the Department of Public Service Administration, the RTMC, provincial governments and labour formations will pave the way for the introduction of a 24-hour work shift within the traffic law enforcement fraternity; ensuring the availability of officers on the road at all material times.

“Informed by the ever-escalating road carnages, I urge the RTMC to move with urgency and unprecedented speed to conclude engagements with the Department of Justice and Correctional Services, as well as the National Prosecuting Authority, to reschedule traffic offences with a view of introducing mandatory minimum sentences,” she reported.

Incensed by the deaths on the road, our minister of transport was driven to quoting Winston Churchill: “The era of procrastination, of half measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences,” she proclaimed. “We will spare no effort and leave no stone unturned in ensuring that our roads are safe!”

Personally, I think that Peters is over complicating the required solutions. We don’t need fancy words or quotations from Churchill. We need proper policing! We need honest traffic officers, who are passionate about improving road safety – and not collecting bribes!

It’s really quite simple.

I will share these thoughts with our minister of transport when we next quaff a glass of wine … (sorry dear stalker, I couldn’t resist that!)

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