Faulty traffic lights cause constant crashes

Time of article published Mar 3, 2010

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By Dasen Thathiah

Faulty traffic lights continue to frustrate motorists travelling in and around Durban, with accidents occurring at affected intersections every day.

City manager Michael Sutcliffe said on Tuesday that a large amount of construction work was been done around Durban, which could lead to traffic light defects.

"All you need is a small pinprick somewhere on the cable along the route and then, when the wet weather comes, we have a fault," Sutcliffe said.

But motorists could sue the eThekwini Municipality for damages arising from accidents that occurred as a result of malfunctioning traffic lights, legal experts said.

Ketan Sibran, of Sibran and Sibran Attorneys in Glenwood, said affected parties could consider action against either the municipality or the other driver.

First, the driver had to prove that the municipality was aware the traffic light was not functioning," he explained.

"The second stage requires proof that the municipality failed to take the necessary steps to rectify the problem within a reasonable time."

Only then could action be taken against both the municipality as well as the driver.

Sutcliffe said he was unaware of any cases where drivers had taken legal action against the municipality for faulty traffic lights.

"It would be difficult to prove the city was at fault," he said. "We can hardly be blamed if someone steals the cable or there's a problem with electricity in the area."

The overall number of traffic light faults was similar to that of Johannesburg and Cape Town, Sutcliffe said.

"We went through a bad patch about a year ago, but since then the situation has improved dramatically," he said.

Andrew Aucamp, manager of urban traffic in the municipality, acknowledged in January that there were serious problems in the department which controlled the traffic signals across the region.

On Monday, a 15-car pile-up left six people injured at the intersection of Havenside Road and Higginson Highway, where traffic lights were not functioning.

A Daily News employee noted that almost all of the traffic lights on South Coast Road and Higginson Highway had been defective since last Friday.

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