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Chaos on our roads - where does it stop?


Some days ago en route home, from work, I was surprised when I noticed a driver stop at an amber traffic light.

Under normal circumstances, other drivers shouldn’t be so shocked and instead, should rather be expecting it. Then again, this is Gauteng, where drivers usually speed up when approaching an amber traffic light and even more so, at the sight of a red light! It’s an issue that goes far beyond the reasoning that:  “people are colour-blind.”

It’s a common sight in Johannesburg to see three cars, a bus and a taxi, all zooming through a red robot, or even seven vehicles - yes seven - passing through a red robot.

Judging by the state of public transportation and the high rate of “bought driver’s licenses,” more people are opting to use private transport and yet, many of these “drivers” aren’t fit for, or trained correctly, to be on the road. Driving from a young age doesn’t make anyone a better driver, which is another excuse people use to explain their reckless behaviour. Being a responsible, well-learned driver is acknowledging that there are thousands of other road users who adhere to the laws and road rules, so that all road users can travel safely.

Life in Gauteng is known to be very fast-paced and while everyone is highly stressed and constantly in a rush, the rules of the road are simple. Jumping robots and stop streets display the grossest selfishness and negligence on the part of those offenders. How can a driver completely disregard another person’s safety – let alone his own? According to the Automobile Association of South Africa (AA) these inconsiderate drivers/perpetrators/offenders, should face the full might of the law – no questions asked!

According to some South African crime statistics, one in five people involved in a hi-jacking situation get shot outside their house or at a robot. It’s well known that most crime in South Africa is violent and most criminals will have a weapon of some shape or form. So, whether you resist or not there’s a 20 percent chance of being killed because criminals are threatened by the advent of proficient vehicle-tracking companies so they’ll shoot the driver, leaving him or her unable to call anyone, while the perpetrators get away.

Considering the high rate of hi-jackings, it’s understandable how people skip robots late at night and treat them like yield signs, whereas during the day this is simply not acceptable. South Africa’s road deaths are estimated at about 14 000 a year. In 2009, the justice system took a firm stance on a Durban machine operator and father of four, 34-year-old Sizwe Shezi, and sentenced him to 18 months in prison for overtaking three cars from a turning lane and further jumping a red light. Despite the best efforts of his lawyers, two judges confirmed the sentence and refused him permission to appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal. Judge Herbert Msimangwas reported as saying that the way people disregard the law has become an endemic and it’s high time for someone to go to jail for such an offence.

If every transgressor were to be arrested for 18 months, it would definitely take a toll on the South African economy considering how many drivers commit these acts.

Traffic circles, roundabouts and one-way streets are other elements of chaos on the roads. Traffic circles have only been introduced within the last seven to 10 years and many drivers are unsure of how to use them.

Turning onto, or crossing over a one-way street, requires drivers (and pedestrians) to check both ways because more often than not there’s a car coming down in the opposite direction. Is it perhaps just a generation thing, or are we missing something, somewhere along the line?

The depleting education system, corruption, corrupted diplomats and poor public transport facilities are not going to help much for a safe future on the roads.

Moira Winslow, chairman of Drive Alive, asks: “Why do we have robots if no one stops at them?”

What are your thoughts on motorists ignoring traffic lights in South Africa?

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