AFTER my usual month's holiday in the "friendly city", I must thank all its citizens for a most enjoyable one. My gratitude does not, however, extend to Eastern Cape drivers – at least not in general.
Hitherto, I have always been impressed by the courtesy exhibited by them. This has been replaced by aggressiveness, bad road manners and gross transgression of the rules of the road – cutting in, no indication of change of lane or direction, running stop streets and traffic lights, etc – the full suite of "big city driver syndrome".
The cold statistics of continued road carnage tell us safety programmes are not working – have never worked!? Here is my two-pronged remedial plan:
Reactive: Increased traffic police capacity, in numbers and in training. Our guys are simply not up to policing moving violations, the major cause of accidents. Even when police investigate an accident, errant drivers are seldom convicted.
The Small Claims Court deals only with aggrieved motorists trying to recoup the excess on their insurance – the maximum claim being R7000!
Proactive: This strikes at the core of the problem – teaching road safety as a life skill. This should be compulsory from primary school level – the rules of the road, as practically applicable to pedestrians/runners, cyclists, skateboarders, scooter drivers and, in the matric year, for potential car drivers. Funding for all this? This should not be a problem, as the costs of our disastrous performance on the roads approach the tax budget!
No one is innocent – all are guilty! We are like this because we can get away with unsafe practices; the rules of the road apply only to others, not to us? We are "entitled" as road users and can do what we like!
So the root of the problem lies with road-user "attitude", including those people we know and love.
Maybe it starts with the attitude of the person who parks on the yellow chevron lines at the golf club, rather than in any of a number of legitimate parking bays Those who park in bays for the handicapped? Attitude!
I look forward to my next visit to the friendly city, despite not expecting any real/measurable improvement in road safety, anywhere, until I die – I just do not wish to die on the road!
PS: My most memorable experience of road rage in PE was when I slowed for a peacock at the roadside and the driver behind me crossed the barrier line to overtake me, but then the car was a CA-registered BMW! I felt "at home"!
Alan Campbell, Gardens, Cape Town