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A raft of radical road-safety measures is being planned for the Western Cape in a bid by Transport MEC Robin Carlisle to further cut road deaths.
Among them are banning blue-light brigades transporting VIPs, tough new child restraint laws, a new 1.5m passing law for motorists overtaking cyclists, and a possible reduction in speed limits across the province as part of the Safely Home campaign.
Carlisle is considering the reduction of speed limits by 10km/h, from 120km/h to 110km/h, and from 80km/h to 70km/h.
Special consideration would also be given to roads which pass shops, schools and other areas with a high number of pedestrians, where speed limits could be reduced to just 40km/h or even 30km/h.
Since Carlisle took office in 2009 Safely Home has reduced the road death rate by 29 percent.
The Western Cape Provincial Road Traffic Bill has been published in the provincial government gazette and is open for public comment until September 20. The bill is in terms of the national act, which gives the MEC the power to make regulations governing road safety matters.
His office described the bill on Monday as “a crucial weapon in the ongoing battle against the carnage on the roads”.
If it is passed Carlisle plans to install the following regulations into law:
The banning of the use of blue lights by VIP transport in the province, unless in the case of a confirmed threat to the life of the VIP. Carlisle's office said: “Blue light convoys of dubious purpose have been repeatedly involved in road trauma incidents throughout the country, and this will no longer be tolerated.”
The introduction of a 1.5-metre passing law for bicycles. The ministry explained: “As cycling, which is already an extremely popular sport in our province, develops into a fully-fledged transport mode, we will take increasing steps to protect bicycle users.” Other regulations Carlisle is considering are several measures to protect children, including:
Child-restraint regulations that would ban shared seating and mandate the use of seatbelts, rear and forward-facing child seats, and booster seats. Harsh penalties for non-compliance would be applied.
Introducing an additional offence for reckless behaviour with children in the vehicle, such as speeding, drunk driving or cellphone use. The penalties for this offence would increase exponentially should the child not be correctly restrained.
Banning overtaking of stopped school buses and scholar transport vehicles, which will concurrently be marked with chevrons and a stop sign.
Regarding seatbelts, Carlisle said: “Worldwide, massive gains have been made through the introduction of compulsory seatbelts.
“In South Africa, we have a major enforcement issue, which the upcoming provincial road safety strategy will address. To strengthen our arm in this regard, we are considering the introduction of personal fines for passengers not wearing seatbelts.”
Carlisle encouraged members of the public to make written submissions on the proposed regulations to the Department of Transport and Public Works before September 20.
“This is a real opportunity for people to suggest new regulations that will save lives.”
Carlisle said. “I understand that some of these regulations could be very controversial. But if we are serious about saving lives then we cannot run away from these crucial debates.”
Carlisle's planned steps against “blue light abuse” come after Premier Helen Zille has repeatedly slammed convoys carrying senior politicians or officials forcing their way through traffic by activating flashing blue lights.
News of the 1.5metre passing law was particularly welcomed.
Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour event director Dave Bellairs said: “That is fantastic news. It was discussed a while back and it is superb news to hear it may now be implemented. We have no doubt that keeping vehicles further away from cyclists, by law, will save lives.” - Cape Argus