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Curb highway crime in SA: Users call for 'visible policing'

2015-10-13 13:00

Update - Comments are open!

Cape Town - In September 2015, Wheels24 reported on the Western Cape government tackling violent and criminal incidents along the N2 highway in Cape Town.

The W Cape government outlined a plan of action to curb crime along the busy highway, including an increase in the number of law enforcement officers on the N2, and monitoring the stretch of road at any given time.

Wheels24 asked users what should be done to curb crime along South Africa's notorious highways and a poll garnered 11525 votes.

Poll results:

Visible policing - 5658 votes

Remove potholes and debris - 521 votes

Clampdown on pedestrians using highways - 3092 votes

Nothing, the system is too broken - 2254 votes

Arrive Alive editor, Johan Jonck, shares his views on curbing highway crime:

1  Visible policing

The majority of users, 5658 votes, called for visible policing along SA's dangerous highways.

Jonck: There is general consensus among road safety NGO’s and consultants that effective, visible enforcement  is most needed in SA. Here are some facts to consider:

There are approximately 18 000 traffic officers (including those working in admin, at traffic officers, at weigh bridges etc.). If they work eight-hour shifts, the number of available officers on our roads becomes rather insignificant – especially if you consider SA's road network of approximately 150 000km (tarred roads) for a total of 750 000km.

We have very few officers working through the night – efforts are however underway to correct this but there has been resistance from labour unions.

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It is however not only the number of officers that is of concern but the effectiveness of police enforcement. It cannot be denied that there is an excessive focus on speed-enforcement and not enough on other traffic violations. Training would be required to check i.e roadworthiness of trucks etc. These concerns are apparently under close scrutiny from Department of Transport and RTMC.


2 Remove potholes and debris

Only 521 respondents believed the removal of dangerous potholes and obstructions on our roads will reduce crime. Many criminals take advantage of SA's poor road surfaces and even set up their own obstructions.

Jonck: "Potholes and debris are the cause of a lot of vehicle damage but not that many crashes as road users tend to drive slower and with more caution in areas where they know that road surfaces are dangerous.

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What's alarming is the fact that road surfaces can differ significantly depending on municipal areas with some being much more on top of service delivery than others.

3 Clampdown on pedestrians using highways

This was the second most popular option with a total of 3092 votes or 27%. The increased number of incidents involving pedestrians is alarming and the proliferation of jaywalking/reckless behaviour poses a danger to all road users.

Jonck: This remains a very important concern with pedestrian making up about 35% of road fatalities. We already referred to inadequate numbers of traffic officers and as a result it would be near impossible to enforce all roads where pedestrians are likely to cross.

Engineering is part of the solution – such as pedestrian bridges – but often pedestrians do not use these despite it being available to them!

Pedestrians say crime is one of the reasons, they're afraid criminals wait for them on the other side of bridges. Also note that surveys indicate that is why so many walk on the side of the road surface and not further away, afraid of criminals lurking in the dark.

4 Nothing, the system is too broke

The light at the end of the tunnel was only 2254 votes or 20% believe that the country's transport and policing services are unable to remedy road-crime.

Jonck: A sad reflection of the feeling of hopelessness. It is important that we continue to believe that we can do things better and not throw hands in despair.

• Continue to report potholes, to demand action….
• Focus on what you can do to be safer… to drive defensively and adjust driving to be safer…
• Don’t just blame others for the poor state of road safety – don’t disobey the rules of the road because others do so… see every time that you drive as an opportunity to set an example to your kids and passengers

Jonck said: "There are drivers for the 11.3-million vehicles on our roads. Many of these are driving irresponsibly, recklessly and lawlessly. Don’t expect others to keep you safe… do what you can to be safer while transport authorities are trying to fix the problems in traffic enforcement!"

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