The attitude of South African drivers is the main cause of fatalities on the country’s roads, says roads and transport department deputy director general James Mlawu.
Reader: Reduce the speed limit
In reponse to the article published on Wheels24 in October 2012, reader Amanda emailed us to share her thoughts on drivers in SA:
It is simple really, there is only one cause of all SA's road deaths, and that is speed. During the past two years I have lived in England, spent some time in Vietnam, and am currently living in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia The one thing that has fascinated me is how the people of these countries, First and Third world, use the roads safely.
'THEY DON'T SPEED'
In Britain, they really obey the rules of the road. They keep left and pass right, so there is no weaving of traffic, and the trucks are not permitted in the right hand lanes on the motor way under any circumstances.
There is not a huge police presence but drivers drive safely. You do get the odd speedster but he will be caught by a camera somewhere and he will have points taken off his license. Most people give way to those trying to get into a road and are very polite.
The maximum speed limit on the motorway is 70mph (about 110km) and if you stick to the speed limit you are actually going quite fast. Most go slower than this. In the suburbs it is mostly 30mph (about 50km).
In Vietnam, there was utter chaos on the roads with hundreds and hundreds of mopeds and fewer, but still plenty cars. And although there was a lot of weaving in and out of traffic, they DON'T SPEED, so if you turn out into the traffic you actually stand a chance of NOT getting hit by a car or moped. Everyone has a chance to think in the case of an emergency. Pedestrians (and there are many) cross the roads with mopeds and cars going SLOWLY around them. It was totally fascinating to watch. It is the way it is and it works.
Here in Kuala Lumpur it is equally fascinating. There is lots and lots of traffic, and to get into a road you have to take the gap, but you are able to do so because you don't have cars hurtling towards you at high speeds in both directions or hooting you out the way or flashing their lights at you if you happen to turn in front of them. Here there don't seem to be any road rules, just "guidelines" and as long as you stick to these guidelines you will be fine and get to your destination safely.
The maximum speed limits on the motorways here is 100km/h. Most people stick to this and even though it is chaotic, it is "organised chaos". It is Monsoon season here at the moment so lots and lots of rain, and yet we still don't see the amount of accidents we do in SA when it starts to rain. Also not a lot of police on the roads, but also not the amount of tragic accidents like those we have in SA.
Sure accidents do happen here, but they are mostly bumper bashings and if they are more serious, not always fatal.
Yes most people and the police in South Africa blame the accidents on alcohol, unlicensed drivers, unroadworthy vehicles, rain, pedestrians etc. We are always reading the words "the cause of the accident is unknown", or "the driver lost control of the vehicle".
There is only one way to lose control and cause the amount of damage and deaths that these drivers cause - and that is with extreme speed. Yes you can lose control of a vehicle going slowly too, on wet roads for example, but if you are going slowly the damage will be less.
And the chances of being killed or killing others is less too. And in these other third world countries there are also a lot of unroadworthy vehicles too, and unlicensed drivers, and you often see whole families - parents and 3 children - all on one moped, but the chance of them being wiped out by a speeding driver are just about nil. It is possible, but not probable.
The only way to reduce the carnage on our roads, and the 14000 deaths per year, is to try and reduce the speed limit, make people aware of why it must be reduced (nobody can think clearly travelling at high speeds), and impose heavier fines (although too many people are prepared to pay the fine and carry on speeding). The fact is that we have, and will always have, lots of pedestrians on SA roads.
They will continue to cross the motorways. If drivers are going slowly they will be able to avoid them. Another fact is that we will always have the taxis on our roads, and a lot of them will be unroadworthy and even unlicensed, and will overload their vehicles with passengers, but if they would just drive a little slower it would still work, without anyone getting killed.
People will always drive under the influence of alcohol, especially in SA where there is no reliable public transport system, but if they drive SLOWLY it is not right, but it would help. And too many people still don't buckle themselves or their children up, but if they have an accident while going SLOWER it might also help to avoid them all being killed.
A lot of people would argue that it would cost too much to change all the signs to change the speed limit, but the costs of the accidents is surely much higher.
Speed kills, and that's a fact!
This is my view, it's so simple, I've see it work! Just wish the message could get to the right people in charge :)
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