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'Accidents can be attributed to the human factor'

2016-09-28 12:51

Roger Verrall

THE HUMAN FACTOR: Wheels24 Roger Verrall shares his thoughts on bad driving. Image: iStock


Another day, another clip of taxi drivers disregarding the rules of the road in SA. Watch as taxi driver uses the BRT lane and skip a red light while another drives recklessly through an intersection in Cape Town.

Cape Town - Early in September Wheels24 reported on a taxi driver in Cape Town making use of the buses-only lane and then disrupting traffic as they wanted to rejoin traffic.

The footage upset many readers, with some sending their opinions and thoughts on similar incidents in their areas.

READ: 6 ways mini-bus taxis make driving in Gauteng dangerous

Wheels24 reader Roger Verrall wrote:

Probably the most important thing in road safety is driver concentration, the driver must be thinking about what he is doing all the time.

Almost every crash has a major “human” factor in it - there may be poor road conditions, there may be sudden traffic changes, there may even be an unroadworthy vehicle. All of these things can be minimised by the driver knowing what is happening and reacting quickly.

Is it my imagination that many drivers forget “correct” procedures once they have passed their driving test and acquired the coveted licence? This should be point at which they can start to learn “advanced” driving attitudes. Encourage people to take a pride in driving and parking well.

The two-second rule

Following distances are almost certainly one of the major problems. The “old” two-second rule was excellent, but in many cities these days there just isn’t enough space to accommodate it.

The London Metropolitan Police Driving College at Hendon did a lot of work on this some years ago and came to the conclusion that provided the drivers are fully concentrating and observant it is possible to get away with a one second following distance.

WATCH: Taxis behaving badly in Cape Town: Why is this 'normal' behaviour?

However, they also said that even for very advanced drivers this is too short to be maintained for more than a short while - around one and a half seconds is more realistic for most people. Following too closely while waiting to overtake frequently reduces the visibility angle for the following driver so causing opportunities to be missed. Plus the risk of the collision if something happens in front! Barrier lines are there for good reasons but few motorist appear to take much notice of them.

Speed limits are there for good reasons, but no speed limit can be “correct” for all occasions. 60km/h is the standard limit in most towns and villages, but very often 40km/h is too fast on Saturday mornings. Again good, thoughtful individual driving is the key to safety. Does the average driver look and think far enough in front?

General police activity and law enforcement

One of the major problems is the difficulty of policing moving violations. Speed limit checks are easy to put in place but I suspect they do not significantly reduce accident rates. I do not have figures for the more common accidents, but I suspect that ignoring barrier lines will figure in quite a few of the really bad ones. Failure to obey stop signs appears to be widespread. This is an easy one to police and just might be a method of encouraging motorists to take notice of other road signs - they are all there to be helpful.

READ: Skipping traffic lights - Why does this happen in SA?

Pulling offending motorists in when they are driving badly is very difficult. Presumably on board cameras in the police cars will improve the ability to prove the fault, but apprehending the offenders on a busy road is not easy.

I think I can remember (at least 50 years ago) in the UK that the police would sometimes note a driver negotiating a roundabout (or some other road situation) very well and very correctly. They would send a letter thanking him or her for driving well.

It did no harm and certainly did some good. I think it only went on for about a year.

Read more on:    cape town  |  reader  |  opinion  |  road safety

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