Cape Town - They wait on the side of the busy freeway as trucks barrel down the road at 120km/h. They pick their moment, and then they dash – giggling as they reach the island of grass that separates the lanes of the N7.
Children as young as 4 are playing “chicken” with traffic on the busy freeway and it has become lethal.
“Every year another child is killed,” said Dunoon mother Thandi February shaking her head.
On Friday, that child was a four-year-old from the township that borders the freeway. Joshua Titus, who lived on Cosmos Street in Dunoon, was playing on the side of the road when he stepped in front of a truck.
Paramedic Sarah Hugo saw it happen her rear-view mirror.
“She was on her way to a call in Killarney Gardens, responding to a call,” said ER24 spokesman Werner Vermaak.
“When she saw what had happened, she stopped the car and ran to help him. He was,” he paused, “let’s just say he was in a critical condition.”
The child was rushed to Red Cross Children’s Hospital.
“He died later that evening,” said hospital spokeswoman Angelique Jordaan.
The boy’s parents only found out on Saturday, when after searching for their son since Friday they went to the local police station and filed a missing person’s report.
For February – who owns a home bordering the freeway – this latest death is the final straw.
“We have had enough this,” she told the Cape Argus as trucks roared past her on the road.
In 2012, residents protested on the road demanding, among other things, a safer way to cross the highway.
The township is separated from the highway by a wall. But it is falling apart, with blocks removed to create small back entrances for residents who cross the road daily.
Younger children straddle the line, splashing in puddles before dashing back inside. But the older boys stroll casually over the highway, laughing and cheering as cars miss them by inches.
Most residents interviewed by the Cape Argus said they had no choice but to cross the road.
The reasons vary, from having to go to work or catching a taxi at a makeshift stop on the opposite side, but what they all agree on is that they wished it was safer.
“It is scary,” said February. “They need to put up some barriers and a bridge because right now we just worry about our children going outside and playing in the road when we are busy.”
In 2010, the city of Cape Town revealed that two of the city’s most dangerous intersections were along the road. The junction of Potsdam Road and the N7 near Dunoon was the second-most lethal. The highway’s intersection with the N2 was third.
The Western Cape transport department compiled a report on the dangers of the road in 2012. At that stage there had been 94 crashes on the highway involving pedestrians between 2000 and 2011. “Pedestrian casualties were sustained especially during the late afternoon and early evening. The same trends apply during the week and over weekends,” said spokesman Siphesihle Dube.
“The main problem we identified was the existence of residential areas, low income housing and informal settlements on the western side of the N7.”
The major hazards identified were:
Andrea English – who heads up local children’s NPO Little Lambs – said there were always unsupervised children playing in the streets of Dunoon.
“I haven’t ever seen them on the N7 but at least in Potsdam Road, which runs through the township, they are everywhere.”
She suggested barricades be constructed along the highway to prevent accidents like Friday’s.
“It’s a problem we can solve but it will be very difficult to stop the problem of unsupervised children…”