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Speed limits - some are just stupid, right?

20.10.2014

THE other day - according to a metro police officer - I was travelling at 82km/h in what was a 70km/h zone. At the time I was under the impression that the road was an 80-zone considering the fact that just a few traffic lights down, a sign had alluded to the fact.

The officer assured me that after the last traffic light I had passed there was a sign informing me of the new speed limit as the road has “several concealed entrances.” Bear in mind this was a four-lane road with traffic from both directions, good visibility and relatively low traffic volumes. I honestly couldn’t see why the speed limit had been lowered to such an extent.

Since this incident I’ve been paying far more attention to speed limits, not only because I want to avoid another R350 excursion to buy groceries but because I feel that I would find more speed limits that would not really make sense.

Now don’t think this is another high-octane-petrol-infused rant about the need to raise speed limits and how sections of the Autobahn have existed without limits for years because this piece is more about lowering certain speed limits, rather than raising them.

I know that many a Gauteng resident would probably disagree with lowering the speed limit on any road. I think that if the government had to lower the speed limit on our national highways, no one would adjust their driving speed in any case.  We’re all in the race to get to and from work or wherever we’re going. It’s the Gauteng way of doing things and I don’t foresee a change.

That being said there are certain roads that could benefit from a change to their speed limits. I’m sure no one would argue that 120km/h on a highway (as smooth and wide as the R21) is reasonable. Then, there’s the R50 from Bapsfontien to Delmas, which has been brought to my attention.

After correspondence with local police and a local business owner, I can tell you that the current speed limit seems far too high. To paint a picture, the R50 is a typical South African back road; poorly maintained, narrow, areas with few road markings, no emergency lane worth mentioning and of course, prone to incidents.

As local business owner, Graham Dickson, said: “This road has a speed limit of 120km/h and in fact should be 80km/h. It’s an extremely busy road with a large amount of heavy coal trucks and a favourite road for abnormal loads going to the power stations. The shoulders of the road are in a dismal state, sometimes being up to 300mm below the road surface.”

Mr Dickson recalled several gruesome accidents that he’s witnessed outside his factory on the R50. “A few weeks ago we had a head-on collision in front of our building involving a taxi, a bakkie and a 20-ton truck in which two people died, one of them being burnt alive! Not a pretty site, I can assure you,” he added.

It’s alleged there’s a lack of law enforcement along the road with reports suggesting that  the police congregate at a four-way-stop between the  R50 and R25, with frequent  speed traps being set up along the R25, which is an  80km/h zone.

“In the last year we’ve experienced a large increase of 30-ton ore carriers, which seem to favour this road due to the lack of law enforcement,” Dickson said. The road itself runs past the Daveyton and Etwatwa turn-off towards Bapsfontien and in addition to trucks, also has a number of taxis and small buses taking staff to work at a number of facilities along the road.

Dickson said that he’s approached a number of officials in both Pretoria and Bronkhorstspruit who’ve promised to come and assess the situation, but at the time of writing, no one had come forward.

“The statistics from the local SAPS office from September 2013 to September 2014 report five fatal accidents with the loss of seven lives. An additional thirteen accidents also occurred with injuries ranging from mild to serious. All this loss of life could have been avoided,” Dickson concluded.

Are there any roads that you’ve encountered where either lowering or raising the speed limit may alleviate problems associated with the road? We urge you to share your views with us.

Article written by Sean Nurse
20.10.2014
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