ALL-TOO-COMMON OCCURRENCE: Crashes and road deaths have become the norm on SA’s roads. Wheels24 reader Richard Gebhardt believes that a change in the average SA drivers’ mindset will reduce deaths. Image: SHUTTERSTOCK
On August 14, Wheels24 reader JANNIE SNYMAN wrote to us calling for South Africa to a adopt a 'points-based' system as a means to reduce road deaths.
He also highlighted the relatively low road deaths in New Zealand: “No matter what people say about speed – reduce it to 100km/h on open roads with 120km/h on duel carriage way roads (freeways). Just been driving in NZ and people are law abiding, speed limit 100km/h and very low crash rate.”
Wheels24 reader RICHARD GEBHARDT, emailed us from Auckland, New Zealand in response to SNYMAN's comments:
Let me start off by saying I think it is unrealistic to compare New Zealand to South Africa. I have been living here in Auckland for the past six years. It’s a country that has just over four million people in total, which is probably about the same as the amount of people in Johannesburg.
LAND OF ‘TWISTS AND TURNS’
There are many other reasons why the road fatality number is low in New Zealand, and it is not because of lower speed limits. On the contrary, there are current talks to increase the speed limits to at least 110km/h on certain roads and also decrease it on others where the speed limit is not suitable to road conditions.
Whether or not this will be implemented remains to be seen.
New Zealand is a country where twists, turns, up- and downhills form part of everyday driving. Long straights aren't as easy to come by as they are in Johannesburg, so you have to consider the actual landscape and infrastructure before you can compare anything.
To add, New Zealand has far less roads than South Africa.
‘WILL NOT SOLVE ANYTHING’
Lowering the speed limits in South Africa will not solve anything, it would only frustrate drivers as most of the highways are built to cope with speeds in excess of 120km/h anyways.
You would probably end up increasing traffic congestion. I do however agree that a points system will be a good idea. It helps you control repeat offenders, and in some cases licenses and even vehicles get confiscated depending on the severity of the offence.
CHANGING HEARTS AND MINDS
Now you may wonder, ‘Why does New Zealand have a low number of road fatalities, apart from the obvious point system?’
Firstly, the police force take a proactive approach to policing roads. It gets up to a point where you would rather not take any risks, simply because you know the chances are high that you will be caught. It causes a change in mindset- you realise it’s not worth it and you start to live with it.
It turns into a habit and before you know it you end up obeying the rules more often than not.
The thing about South Africa is, how do you police such a massive area effectively? It’s incredibly difficult.
VEHICLES IN NEW ZEALAND
Furthermore, if you look at the condition of the New Zealand vehicle fleet overall, compared to South Africa you will find a massive difference. New cars have to do a compulsory road worthiness check once a year, older cars twice a year.
It takes about 15-minutes. Modified vehicles need to be certified for major modifications to comply with an acceptable level of road worthiness too. I’m an avid car enthusiast, and it doesn’t take the fun out of driving no, it keeps things to a standard that South African cars don’t have.
How many road deaths are caused in South-Africa due to unroadworthy vehicles I wonder? If your vehicle is not up to standard and you get pulled over, the police officer has the ability to either remove your vehicle from the road, or give you a notice of compliance to get it back up to an acceptable level of roadworthiness.
New Zealand spends a lot of time on education and it all forms this complete package that South Africa doesn't have at the moment.
Can South Africa work towards and achieve a better result on vehicle related fatalities and offences? Yes, I’m positive it can if it looks at applying the correct method and solution to the problem. Let’s be honest, it’s easy to get away with things in South Africa, and that’s the problem.
STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
I think if you look at the above, there’s a lot that can be done if you just take a straight forward approach to things.
Do you agree/disagree with GEBHARDT? Email us and we'll publish your thoughts on Wheels24.
Wheels24 reader responses:
'SA drivers are aggressive and lawless'
Dirty cops: 'Policing the police in SA'