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Walking the line and pedestrian safety

03.11.2014

THE dangers of driving have been highlighted time and time again. How many times have we written about the road death statistics and the carnage on our roads? This is frightening, to say the least!

But what many of us often forget about is the tragic loss of life among pedestrians who get knocked over; many of them are young school children. In fact, a large portion of road deaths are pedestrians, who were killed while trying to cross the road.

I’m fortunate enough to have travelled to various European cities and besides polite driving etiquette, I’ve also noticed a massive respect for the law, particularly in the jay-walking department. One evening, walking back to my hotel, I got to a traffic light with the pedestrian light flashing red. I did the usual ‘look left, look right’ and decided to cross as there were no cars for miles. What happened next astounded me as an old lady began shouting and cursing at me for crossing the road at the wrong time. The incident has stuck with me because, throughout my European travels, the people will wait at pedestrian crossings and refuse to jay-walk as a huge fine is on the cards if they get caught.

It’s a culture I certainly admire, because a quick glance at any European country’s pedestrian death statistics, you’ll see they’re almost non-existent.

Coming back to South Africa and it’s the complete opposite. Bridges have been built for pedestrians in areas like Diepsloot, yet those needing to cross the road still choose to jay-walk and at a leisurely pace too, I might add.

I get the sense that South Africans were never taught about road safety. When I was a child, and if my mother caught me playing anywhere near the road, I got the warning of my life and truthfully, it woke me up to the dangers.

I was always told to wear bright clothes at night, and never cross the road unless at a designated area. I was also taught, if you are going to cross the road, do it with some sort of vigour, don’t merely saunter along.

These are my pet peeves, when I commute to work or drive home at night… I often have to stop completely, in the middle of the road, as someone decided this was a good place to cross the road, particularly near schools, where children climb out of buses and without hesitation, or looking, run across the road.

It’s a painfully frightening experience, almost knocking someone over and it’s no wonder then that the government is on a massive safety drive to lower road fatalities, with a large focus on pedestrians.

It seems as though the Western Cape has got it right with their “Safely Home” road safety campaign, detailing an interactive map, which shows where child pedestrians have been killed in 2014.

Also implemented with the campaign is a shock tactics video, which showcases children being knocked over and interviews with paramedics, discussing the heart-wrenching difficulties in dealing with the accident scene.

The Western Cape has undertaken quite a few safety initiatives, including the drunk-driving videos. However, this campaign is particularly powerful as you begin to understand just how senselessly children are dying on our roads!

The videos may be difficult to watch, but they do highlight an important message and something needs to be done to educate the masses, not only the drivers. The key to educating people should start at grassroots levels and it’s our responsibility to properly prepare our children, as they’re innocent and they are our responsibility.

We want to hear from you about the pedestrian safety and what you feel could be done to make our roads safer.

Article written by Stuart Moir
03.11.2014
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