Walking SA roads a big eye-opener

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IOL mot pic jan21 road walker INLSA Quadriplegics, paraplegics & supporters join Johann Odendaal for the last stretch his walk from Pretoria to Cape Town, to raise funds for the Qasa road safety awareness campaign. Picture: Ross Jansen

A man who walked from Pretoria to Cape Town on the country’s highways to raise awareness about road safety got to see first-hand some of the traffic violations committed by motorists.

Johann Odendaal, 30, watched people talking on their cellphones and driving over the yellow line as if it was an additional lane.

“A lot of motorists were driving distracted by their cellphone and not paying attention to their surroundings. Some didn’t seem to care about pedestrians. I had to be careful of my surroundings,” he said.

Carrying a backpack filled with water and energy snacks, Odendaal walked for about 40km a day for six consecutive days, with a day of rest in between.

He was on a mission to raise awareness for the QuadPara Association of South Africa’s campaign for road safety and the prevention of spinal cord injuries, named “Project KaapStap”.

It saw him walking 1800km along the N12 and N1 from Pretoria’s Union Buildings to the Mother City.

His journey kicked-off on December 1 and ended in Cape Town on Friday.

Qasa is a national organisation that aims to prevent spinal cord injuries, as well as to protect and promote the interests of people with mobility impairments, among them quadriplegic and paraplegic.

Its slogan is “Buckle up! We don’t want new members”.

Odendaal handed out flyers along the way to drum up support for the campaign by encouraging motorists to buckle up and to raise funds for Qasa.

More than 1400 people were killed on the nation’s roads over the festive season.

That was an average of 40 deaths a day, according to the Road Traffic Management Corporation spokesman Ashref Ismail.

He also said that most road fatalities were caused by drunken driving, excessive speeding, not using seatbelts and dangerous overtaking.

LOCKED IN

At night, Odendaal camped or slept in accommodation provided by his sponsors.

“I did this for a friend of mine who was injured in a car crash 10 years ago,” he said. “He is now in a wheelchair with locked-in syndrome. (A condition in which a patient is awake but cannot move any muscles except for the eyes.) Hopefully this journey helped in getting motorists to drive more responsibly.”

On Sunday transport and public works MEC, Robin Carlisle, joined Odendaal and a group of paraplegic and quadriplegics from around Cape Town, on a short walk from the Grand Parade to the statue of Jan van Riebeek in Adderley Street.

Carlisle said: “The biggest number of crashes in the Western Cape were caused by drivers who were not belted up. This includes passengers.

“If they were buckled-up, we could have halved the accident rate. The combination of not wearing a seat belt while speeding can result in a broken neck or a spinal cord injury,” Carlisle said.

“Qasa is doing a very special thing, as their message comes from the people who are living with spine injuries. Hopefully motorists will take note,” he said. - Cape Argus



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