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Reductions in speed limits do reduce road deaths, studies in seven different countries have concluded. And this is part of what has motivated the Western Cape Transport Department to consider reducing speed limits.
This was confirmed on Tuesday night by Transport MEC Robin Carlisle's head of ministry, Hector Eliott, citing collated research presented in a Canadian traffic study.
In Sweden, Denmark, the UK, Australia, Switzerland, Germany and 22 states in the US, researchers concluded that slower-moving traffic meant fewer deaths.
A raft of plans to reduce the death toll on Cape roads has sparked furious debate across the province - but Carlisle says he is determined to save lives, even if some measures are unpopular.
Among them are banning blue-light brigades transporting VIPs, tough new restraint laws for kids, a new 1.5-metre passing law for motorists overtaking cyclists and a possible reduction in speed limits across the province as part of the Safely Home campaign.
The Western Cape Provincial Road Traffic Bill has been published in the provincial government gazette and is open for public comment until September 20. If passed, various regulations would be introduced in terms of the new bill.
As debate raged in all forms of media on Tuesday, Carlisle said: “The road death toll in South Africa is a national crisis. Research tells us that reducing the speed limits on roads will reduce road deaths - there is no doubt in my mind whatsoever. So that is why we have announced these proposals.
“I didn't take this job to make mates.”
“I took this job to save lives - that's my very highest priority.”
Asked how the new regulations would be enforced, he said: “Enforcement is already happening and would be improved by the roll-out of the average speed over distance camera system in other areas in the province.
“We would never implement measures such as these without an education drive that would not only target drivers, but also traffic law enforcement.”
Carlisle said the focus would be on reducing the speed limit in areas with high pedestrian concentrations - all urban areas, in particular business districts in suburbs and towns across the province.
If the regulations were introduced, municipalities would be informed about the province's “changed speed profile”, and would in turn change speed limits on their roads.
Asked when the changes could take effect, Carlisle said the usual legislative process would have to be followed, followed by the necessary education campaign prior to implementation.
“The process may take between six months to a year,” Carlisle advised.
He stressed that his department would scrutinise all submissions made during the comment period.
Shane Jansen van Vuuren, of Bowman Cycles in the city centre, tested a cycling jersey carrying a bold message about the proposed new traffic law, which will oblige motorists to pass cyclists at a distance of at least 1.5m from the two-wheelers.
Van Vuuren expressed delight that the motorists he encountered all obeyed the traffic warning his jersey bore.
“If this is a taste of things to come, then the new law will contribute hugely towards cyclists' safety,” he said. - Cape Argus