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Reader: Traffic lights to blame

2012-09-26 14:01

A BIT OF CCTV CSI: Reader Graham "Are you sure it is the driver being commonly unsafe or is it Western Cape traffic lights that have commonly unsafe settings? Interesting to read how the fault defaults to the driver."

Graham Nortje

This looks to me so much like a situation caused by the hateful practice of configuring Western Cape traffic lights to have the light facing the driver, waiting in the middle of the intersection to turn across it, turn red while the light facing the oncoming traffic behind him/her stays green at intersections with no filter arrows.

The experience of the person crossing the intersection is that the oncoming cars are jumping the light.

I was a victim of this at the Lord Charles intersection in Somerset West where the R44 crosses Main Road and I have felt an enduring bitterness towards local and provincial traffic ever since, it felt to me like a case of authorities having no feeling for how a lack of diligence on their part can ruin somebody else’s life.


At the time there were no filter arrows.

After complaining to traffic authorities I was told that the lights were multi phase… however I pointed out that there was absolutely no warning of this to a driver. Very small multi-phase warning signs appeared on the traffic light poles a couple of weeks later… not sure how many people even understood what that meant.

A few colleagues at work had had a similar experience but escaped harm.

In my case a bakkie driving at breakneck speed from Strand to make the hill jumped the light, a split-second near-miss that could so easily have resulted in a head-on collision. Fortunately his speed made me pause to see if he planned to jump the light.

I cursed him for doing so before proceeding to cross, blissfully unaware that the light behind me was still green.

What made these lights even more lethal was that it appeared that the lights behind one stayed green on alternate cycles, on the other cycle they changed red with the ones facing one.

I stood and watched them after the accident trying to make sense of what the hell had happened.


The cars that followed were much further back with more than enough distance to stop and time for me to cross….

There is a critical distance where oncoming cars are too close to cross in front of them if they are not seen to be slowing down and one can’t see if they are slowing down or not.

So I thought until one of them "jumped the light" and clipped the back tail light of my car, the start of the hell that followed.

I encountered a similar situation in Cape Town city centre some time later.

Suffice to say that I have resented Western Cape traffic ever since and I don’t see any indication that this will change, rather more and more of these light settings seems to be appearing. I also utterly hate the Lord Charles intersection for other reasons too like the basically non–existent delay between some phases etc and avoid these lights like the plague if I can.

To protect myself at Western Cape intersections I now glance in my mirror to check if the lights behind are green so that I can make a judgment call if oncoming cars should be slowing down or not. The problem with this is that, in the case of the Lord Charles lights again, there is little to no delay in the changeover between phases, giving inadequate time to check in a rear-view mirror before getting out of the middle of the intersection.

For what it is worth, Bitter Western Cape motorist.

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