EMERGENCY SITUATION: Renewed calls have been made to drivers to take care when should their vehicle break down on a freeway. Image: Shutterstock.
After the news that at least six children were killed when a bakkie overturned in Pietermaritzburg recently the Western Cape's transport minister Donald Grant has addressed the legality of transporting children in bakkies. He said the government was obliged to provide transport to school-going children whose schools were more than five kilometres from their homes.
Hundreds - perhaps thousands - of children throughout South Africa are carried to school by bakkies and many have died because of traffic crashes involving other vehicles and taxi drivers taking chances.
The Automobile Association (AA) said little had been done to reduce deaths in South Africa.
An AA spokesperson said: "While South Africa is a signatory to the United Nations Resolution on the Decade of Action it is clear little has been done to create change or prevent road deaths. Despite the claim that the number of crashes on major routes declined, the number of deaths... has increased year-on-year since 2011."
After the final road fatality figures of the Christmas holiday season were announced in January national transport minister Dipuo Peters said that South Africa had no cause to celebrate: people "continue to be killed on roads due to irresponsible and murderous acts of fellow road-users".
In the UK, however, road safety organisation GEM Motoring Assist said just four highway deaths at the start of a half-term school break were a grim reminder of how dangerous high-speed roads could be.
Two fatal collisions occurred within an hour of each other. In the first, a long-distance double-decker but rammed a stationary car on the hard shoulder of the M1 freeway north of London, killing three people. The second involved 40 vehicles in fog on another freeway. One person died and more than 40 people were injured.
GEM's chief executive David Williams warned: “Motorways are statistically our safest roads but when something goes wrong the high speeds involved usually mean the consequences will be more severe. We encourage families to put safety first, be aware of possible bad weather and take all necessary precautions to reduce risks on motorways.”
Here's the sound advice he gave and it is as valuable to drivers in South Africa as in Britain when driving on long-distance - or even local - freeways:
• You may use the hard shoulder only in a breakdown, in an emergency or when directed to do so by a police officer. (Read: In South Africa it is not a passing lane for taxis.)
• If your car develops a problem, leave the freeway at the next exit or pull into a service area.
• If you can’t make it to the next exit or a service area then pull on to the hard shoulder and switch on your hazard lights. If possible, stop close to an emergency phone so your car can be easily located.
• Don’t sit in your vehicle, even if it’s cold and wet. You are at risk of being struck from behind (in South Africa, perhaps by a fully-loaded taxi using the hard shoulder as a passing lane). Leave the vehicle through the nearside doors and wait on the verge, behind the crash barrier, away from traffic.
• Leave pets in the car to avoid them becoming further traffic hazards.
• Never use the hard shoulder just to take a break. This is extremely dangerous as well as illegal. Always pull in to a service station where you can park safely.
• Never attempt vehicle repairs yourself on the hard shoulder.