Road Carnage – Silly season and reasons to visit our maker!
If this article comes across as insensitive – it’s supposed to be. I’m tired of those chairmen of the board of IQ directors that put other people’s live at risk because they are either impressing their friends, girlfriends or themselves. A loud exhaust does NOT make up for an inadequate IQ, neither does a dropped suspension, high lift cams or a testosterone injection.
Once again we go into and come out of the season full of goodwill and cheer only to find out that no matter how much emphasis we place on reducing road accidents and the carnage thereof over this time of the year, people’s behaviour the same. South Africa, from whence this scribe originates, is no better. In fact I think it’s worse.
Over the years I have lost 6 friends or colleagues in car accidents, four of them through drinking and driving. Yes, I have been pissed on the roads before and would have burnt out the breathalyser if I had been pulled over – but never again. The question remains, can the authorities ever stop this? Think of the Draconian measures taken in Singapore, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Japan for drunk driving. Does it deter the driver – yes, but drunk driving still takes place.
Drunk drivers are by no means the only cause of accidents in South Africa. Taxis are a menace, a real menace. The problem here is the mindset of the driver. And herein lies the crux of the matter. How many people driving vehicles on the road are sane and fit to drive. I think if we had to look at this file we may very well find it far fatter than than on drunken driving. But the constitution states we should all be able to drive as long as we are physically fit and sober. Ummm, this does make me think.
Insurance companies are big on the under 25 year old driver, usually male. We should think about dropping this K53 licencing scam and start focusing on the mindset of the driver. Same tests here as to get a gun licence because after all you are handling a lethal weapon. Ever put a gun into the hands of a mad man? Think of the mayhem. Now why does this same madman have the constitutional right to get behind the wheel of a car. I’m a fim believer in women drivers being safer on the roads than men – to a point. This could be because they are more cautious. But then again I have come across some mad women. I was involved in an accident with just such a woman. But men on the whole are dangerous creatures behind the wheel of a car. It’s all hokey pokey to have air-bags and fantastic safety equipment in your car but when a taxi or truck hits you doing 140Km/Hr you really have very little options left before going to meet your maker. A lot of accidents in South Africa are head on collisions – usually the outcome is not pretty.
I take my hat off to Robin Carlisle and the impact of www.safelyhome.co.za on drivers in the western cape but he obviously has a mammoth task ahead of him or should I say the traffic authorities have. An interesting bit of information, there are about 1.5M fatalities world wide with 100 out of every 100 000 vehicles being involved. 20/100 000 people are killed every year globally – this is a wiki documentation. Out of the five continents Africa remains king.
Some questions I have: a) what is the impact on non-licenced drivers in all this? b) can one state that third world practices and mindsets are playing a role? c) will putting first world policies and practices into place reduce this impact in third world countries? The rationale behind all this is simple. I don’t think it’s the effect of having a better licencing structure that will reduce accidents in South Africa or most third world countries. Drivers need to be conditioned – too many youngsters not been passed down good driving habits from their parents whom never drove in the first place. It all comes down to what the potential drivers are taught when they are learning to drive – make the traffic authorities have more say over the learning process, more control over the companies doing driving lessons. This may sound ridiculous but I get nervous when I approach any vehicle driven by a learner driver. They should spend time on a track designed for learners until such time the coach decides they have confidence and the ability to drive in traffic.
Both lack of confidence and over confidence causes accidents. Throwing learner drivers onto a highly congested road is not a bright idea. Insurance companies may well agree with this. I’ll be interested to hear what people in the Netherlands, Australia and the United Kingdom have to say about this practice. All three countries bring out very high standards of driving – I’m not saying it’s impeccable. I’ve seen some horrendous driving from British people but the bottom line is that the traffic policing is of a very high standard – not just geared up to make money from fines. I sincerely believe that the policing may be a bit over the top in some areas. Driving tests should not be a process where a learner gets scared out of his wits. It should be a simple test – good driving habits come from the trainer, not from the police. If the police are happy with the ability of the training then I’d say we are looking at better and safer roads.
[Update 10-1-2014: South Africa had one of the highest levels of road deaths during the 2013/2014 festive season compared to previous years. In most areas the roads are not third world as our overseas visitors may suspect but are in excellent condition. This unfortunately does not apply to our driving ability. I take my hat off to the authorities and especially the traffic police whom time and time again have to either rescue passengers and drivers from accidents and put their own lives into danger when apprehending those many arseholes of the road called drivers].