'State not delivering on road safety'

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IOL mot pic apr18 N3 truck crash

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A container truck on the N3 near Ashberton crossed the centre island and smashed into two other trucks, injuring four and closing the freeway for several hours. Picture: Terry Haywood

Government and road traffic authorities are neglecting their road-safety responsibilities, says the South African Road Federation

SARF president Logashri Sewnerain said: “For more than two decades we have had one of the highest accident rates in the world. On average 40 people are killed daily - and the numerous conferences, strategies, promises and campaigns held over the years have born little if any fruit.

The minister of transport rightly bemoans the poor culture of driver behaviour on our roads and appeals to the driving public to mend its ways. However, drivers are unlikely to do so unless the minister issues a clear directive to the heads of the numerous traffic bodies that the rules of the road - which entail the mechanical condition of vehicles as well as driver behaviour - be strictly enforced.

“Road safety should involve much more than speed trapping.”

A more visible presence of moving traffic enforcement vehicles would be a good place to start. Moreover, the blatant disregard of traffic regulations must be punished. All too often we hear of instances in which traffic offenders break the law under the very noses of the traffic authorities without any consequences; this is an open invitation to break the law.”

Another contributing factor is the increasing growth of heavy vehicles on the country’s primary routes. Recent research at the Durban University for Technology shows that the incidence of defective heavy vehicles is far higher than was previously thought, especially with regards to defective tyres.

“There are few major highways in the world with such a high percentage of heavy vehicles.”

“Almost every day one or more of our major rural and urban arterials is blocked by a bus or freight vehicle which has either broken down or been involved in an accident causing extensive damage and/or one or more fatalities.

“Recent incidents such as the bus that drove into a house, killing the occupants, or the chaos caused by the tanker which burst into flames on the N3 highway during the Easter weekend, are all too common.

“Moreover, heavy vehicles often travel at speeds well in excess of the 80km/hr legal speed limit and pass each other under very dangerous circumstances. Buses, too, are driven irresponsibly because their drivers know they are unlikely to get caught, let alone brought to book.

“Having said that, the SARF is mindful of the critical role that heavy vehicles play in the economy of the country - virtually everything we buy, from groceries to electronics to cars, has at some point in the logistics chain been transported by truck. In addition, the SARF is also aware of the fact that there are many very competent and experienced heavy vehicle drivers on the road, and that crashes involving trucks are also caused by the reckless driving of light motor vehicle drivers.

FREIGHT SHOULD BE TRANSPORTED BY RAIL

“The excess of heavy vehicles on the N3 and other major routes is primarily caused by the inability of Transnet to attract freight that rightfully should transported by rail.

“For many years now Transnet has planned to attract more freight to the railways, but as yet without any visible signs of success. The SARF considers that the time has come to construct a dedicated freight route between Durban and Johannesburg, or physically separated lanes on the N3, to accommodate growing demand. An analysis by a noted transport economist has shown this to be economically feasible,” concluded Sewnerain.

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