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More than just a taxi accident...

20.04.2015

NOT so long ago I was on my way to OR Tambo International from Witbank, to catch an early morning flight. When I say early morning - I mean really early. I think it was a 7am flight so I was on the highway at around 5am. While travelling on the N12, I couldn't help noticing the number of taxis that were passing me. This got me thinking…

Okay, so we’ve written many articles on the taxi situation in South Africa but please bear with me, here. The taxi industry in South Africa is a R30 billion business with approximately 25 million customers a day. It’s a largely unregulated enterprise and a major contributing factor to the thousands of unnecessary deaths on our roads, every year.

About four taxis sped past me, ranging from the usual Toyota Quantum taxi as well as two bigger minibus taxis. The two minibuses were also towing heavily overloaded trailers. Now you’re probably thinking this is not unusual - and it isn’t. Well, what upset me was the fact that I was travelling at a set cruise control of 126km/h and all four taxis sped past me at well over 130km/h.

What made this worse, these taxis were fully loaded with passengers and there were heavy patches of mist along the highway. In fact, one taxi drove past me in mist where I had slowed down to 100km/h because of poor visibility. So, anyway, overloaded taxis speeding is nothing new, I get it, but what is being done about it?

I did some research and I found out there’ve been amendments made to that National Road Traffic Act (NRTA), which have been published in the Government Gazette. These amendments include speed limiters, which will electronically govern the speed limit of all public transport vehicles in efforts to increase compliance and improve safety on our roads. Here’s what I found:

PUBLIC TRANSPORT SPEED LIMITERS

Amended regulations published:

1. “Regulation 32A, requiring for all to provide proof of address for the National Traffic Information System (NatTIS) within one year of promulgation.

2. Regulation 215 requiring, from December 1 2016 new taxis, buses and trucks will have to be fitted with a speed governor (80km/h for trucks, 100km/h for taxis and buses).

3. Regulations relating to provisional driving licences and the promulgation of a list of offences for which a driving licence will be suspended for 24 months, making the process of attaining a driving licence more stringent.

According to the NRTA: “Amendment of Regulation 215 of Regulations 53, Regulation 215 of the Regulation is hereby amended by the substitution for sub-regulation (1A) of the following sub-regulation:

(1A) No person shall operate a

(a) minibus;

(b) midibus;

(c) bus, or

(d) goods vehicle the gross vehicle mass of which exceeds 3 500 kilograms, first registered after the 1st December 2016, unless such minibus, midibus, bus or goods vehicle is fitted with a speed governor, restricting the speed of such motor vehicle to the speed limits as contemplated in regulation 293.”

I’m really pleased government will be putting this plan into action but I have some concerns about it. Firstly, it states that vehicles registered after the 1st of December 2016 will be fitted with these devices. Why aren’t they fitting current taxis with these devices?  Secondly, why only at the end of 2016? I feel they should roll this plan out as soon as possible.

It’s not only on the highway that taxis pose a problem. It’s irresponsible and life-threatening for taxi drivers to drive the way they do. Jumping red lights, driving in the yellow lane, driving up one-way streets and stopping in the middle of intersections to either drop or pick up passengers (blocking traffic), all of which could cause serious accidents. I also feel that government should start implementing tougher licensing procedures for those looking at obtaining a public transport licence as these drivers carry the responsibility of many peoples’ lives.

There most definitely needs to be stronger policing - not only on our roads and common taxi routes - but equally so at all taxi ranks. Our traffic department must actively embark on a drive to impound un-roadworthy vehicles through well managed roadblocks and vehicle inspections at the taxi ranks. Officers need to be trained on how to conduct vehicle safety checks and work rigorously to identify and prosecute offenders.

You’ve probably read many such articles but I really felt the need to share this from a more personal side, as one of the taxis that sped past me that morning was carrying a mother holding her child. They were sitting in the second to last row up against the window; I felt so bad for them. The driver was speeding with an overloaded vehicle without a care for these two people. If anything had to happen then it would be just another taxi accident, but to that mother and child it would’ve been much more; the loss of a wife, mother and the loss of a child. Something needs to be done and it needs to be done immediately.

If you have any opinions or suggestions please feel free to write to us. We always appreciate your feedback.

Article written by Justin Jacobs
20.04.2015
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