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Our daily jam-packed congested lives

15.11.2013

At this stage of the year, I’m sure - if many of you are like me - you've been spending your mornings in traffic wondering two things: will the holidays ever come and when did the roads start getting so congested?

I say this because I seem to be spending more and more time behind the wheel of a car listening to the engine idling along. It’s sort of become the theme tune of my life. Rather depressing you might think, but it’s certainly worrying that the once-quiet back roads I used to wiz through to get to work have become so heavily congested. I can only imagine how the main roads must look.

Navigation company TomTom recently released research figures that showed commuters from around the world would spend around eight working days stuck in traffic each year.

Now I don’t know about you, but I would rather be spending my time with family or friends rather than humming along to an over-played song on the radio and having to fight off taxies. Thankfully, South Africa isn’t as bad as some parts of the world and commuters would only end up spending around 3.5 days a year in traffic.

It’s not difficult to guess which city is the most congested in South Africa, with Johannesburg taking the top spot. In second place is the Mother City while Durban was ranked sixth, but it did have the country’s biggest increase in traffic congestion.
We know one of the biggest issues is the lack of public transport and people jokingly comment that once e-toll is implemented, congestion will just simply stop. After all, faster travelling times are what Sanral’s promising.

I’m sure the Sanral debate will rage on for years and the truth is that we can keep upgrading and building bigger roads, but these too will become congested. What we need is smarter mobility and other options for commuters if we ever want to tackle the congestion issue.

Of course, with increased time in traffic, drivers are becoming more distracted. I’ve witnessed everything from people shaving to applying their make-up in rush-hour traffic.

I don’t know what’s more worrying: the fact that people don’t have time in the morning to complete their personal grooming rituals before leaving for work or that they have no shame doing it in front of other people.

I’m a big fan of peoplewatching and these last few weeks have certainly been the most bizarre. I’ve seen everything, from the common chatting and texting on cell phones to people devouring meals as though it were their last. But the strangest thing I witnessed was a woman breastfeeding her child while behind the wheel.

She was obviously on the morning school run - or should I say crèche run - when she had to ‘do the deed’. As shocked as I was, I couldn’t help but think that when it’s feeding time, it’s feeding time. There was nowhere to go, she couldn’t exactly head down to the nearest petrol station or pull over, because we were at a standstill.

I’ve read several websites on how to avoid contributing to traffic congestion and they all offer similar advice. The big one is taking public transport, but that’s relatively impossible for most South Africans. The other common ones include planning ahead and driving courteously.

The latter is probably something all South Africans need to work on, as we are an aggressive bunch. Every other day you hear about road-rage incidents or read in the paper how someone was dragged out their vehicle and beaten for a silly mistake.

Admittedly, I can relate to aggressive road behaviour at times. Imagine having some idiot push in front of you every morning only to stop a few metres down the road to drop commuters off. Even the calmest person has a breaking point and that’s why it’s so important that we treat one another with respect on the roads. We are all trying to get somewhere as efficiently as possible, so why do some feel they are more important than others that they can skip robots and push in.

At this time of year, we are all at our wits’ end and just trying to get to the end of the year with as little stress as possible. So let’s try to be kind to one other and struggle through traffic together, because let’s face it, it’s only going to get worse.

We want to read what’s the strangest thing you’ve seen someone do in traffic. Send your comments to editor@autodealer.co.za

Article written by Stuart Moir
15.11.2013
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