Would you drive at 50km/h if it could save a life?

By the end of this year, at least 14,000 people will have died on South Africa’s roads. Despite this, road safety appears not to be a priority for government. Our average speed limits are higher than in other countries and law enforcement is weak. RA’EESA PATHER asked whether people feel safe on our roads and whether they’d consider driving at slower speeds.

Sieraaj SoekerSieraaj Soeker, 46, self-employed, Grassy Park
Safety varies at times but during peak hour it’s pathetic because obviously you want to get where you need to be and not be late. Nobody likes to sit in traffic at all. One time we were driving and a car came over to our lane and and we were forced to drive into another car. The driver of the car that came in our lane smiled and drove off. Nothing happened to him at all. It’s pathetic. If they dropped the speed limit it would be catastrophic because 60km/h is already slow as it is. It’s going to make too much of a difference going from 60km/h to 50km/h. That is why we get speeding fines all the time for cheating 60km/h as it is. Yes, all the time, I break traffic laws. Speeding is the obvious one. I don’t go too fast, it’s just sometimes you don’t take note.

Roxanne SimpsonRoxanne Simpson, 22, student, CBD
I do feel safe on the roads. There are idiots but you just have to think for them. People don’t indicate, they drive too fast, obstruct the roads, so there is some silly driving.  I broke my back in an accident a few years ago. We were driving down the N2 and we hit a pedestrian who was crossing the road. It was high impact and the car rolled a lot. It took me about a year to get over the anxiety and also to be able to sleep properly – I was asleep when the accident happened so I developed a fear of going to sleep. I’ve never gotten a speeding fine but I have speeded. I also cross over the solid line when I change lanes. Driving at 40km/h or 50km/h is terribly slow. I wouldn’t support that kind of law change.

Khaya NdalaKhaya Ndala, 28, barrister, Langa
During the day the roads are safe but at night it’s not safe. There are a lot of people driving badly, they’re driving drunk. In 2007 I was going to work in a taxi, and there was a car coming from the other side of the road, and he just hit our car. But I think our driver was drunk, it was Sunday morning. I was injured, I hurt my back and my shoulder. I just feel the pain sometimes,  I get in a daze and feel like I’m just losing my mind when I think about it. I’ve never driven a car, so I haven’t broken the law. It would be good if the speed limit was dropped; 40km/h would be good because the roads are narrow and there are a lot of people moving around. Drivers need to go slower.

Yandiswa MagabaYandiswa Magaba, 21, researcher for provincial government, Delft
I don’t always feel safe because of people driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, and there’s some silly driving on the road especially at night and during the peak hours when everyone’s rushing to work. I’ve been in an accident. There was a guy driving in front of our taxi and the robots were green for him to go but he stopped and our taxi bumped into him. He was wrong but police officers blamed our taxi driver. I haven’t driven a car, so I haven’t broken any traffic laws. I think it would be good if the speeding limit was dropped because we would have fewer accidents. It would decrease the number of people that die on the roads.

Sheldon MarlowSheldon Marlow, 35, surfing instructor, Woodstock (originally from Australia)
I feel safe with my driving but not particularly with other people’s driving. As a pedestrian I don’t feel safe at all because nobody obeys the rules, they all just drive through the crossings, and through the little green man on the robot. In some areas there’s nothing in place to protect pedestrians. You’ve got to keep your eyes open. I haven’t been in an accident but my friend was hit by a taxi while he was driving his motorbike and the taxi just left him there. It makes me disbelieve in the system. There’s people unlicensed on the road, people uninsured, and there’s a definite need for driver education. The last time I broke a speeding law was in Australia, I drove through a red light on motorbike. In Australia, the speed limit is 50km/h, but I don’t think dropping the speed here will do anything. People will speed anyway. We need more permanent cameras and more visible policing.

Ebrahim RaaffEbrahim Raaff, 37, taxi driver, Kensington
I’m a safe driver so I feel safe but when the weekend approaches then nope. That’s the time when people get drunk and stupid. I’ve had experiences with them. This one time a drunk driver went over a red robot and I was driving across the road. He just came up the street, he didn’t stop for any robots or nothing. He came up just behind me, I swerved, and he missed me by a little bit. I’ve broken a lot of traffic laws and I’m parked on a yellow line now.  I mainly break parking laws: parking in loading bays, parking on yellow lines, red lines, and then speeding laws, I sometimes break them but not all the time. If the speed limit was dropped, I would just walk. I won’t be able to drive at 40km/h or 50km/h, you’ll get nowhere with that speed.

Carmen RousseauCarmen Rousseau, 37, food and beverage supervisor, Mitchell’s Plain
I’ve never had any accidents and none of my close friends and family have been in accidents but I don’t feel safe on the roads. There’s a lot of traffic and taxis drive like crazy. They should take all these maniacs with the taxis off the road. If they drop the speed limit to 40km/h or 50km/h it will be more safe on the road. It will prevent people from being in a rush and it will prevent more accidents.

  1. Ashraf says

    I honestly feel that it’s not the speed limit that is the problem. It’s driver education and awareness. Lowering the limit would result more being bored with the slow speed and would tend to get drowsy.

    Everyone I know has broken speed limit laws because they’re ridiculous in some areas. Lowering the speed limit would make people believe that it is just another reason for the police to set up speed traps and Bill us yet another thing.

    The autobahn in Germany has no speed limit in certain sections yet they have fewer accidents. Sometimes speed isn’t the issue but rather driver education, or lack thereof.

    1. Frank says

      I agree completely with you Ashraf! It is nothing to do with the speed at all. It’s like you said, it’s about driver education and I would also add no proper policing of the laws and road worthiness of vehicles. Judging by the interviews in the articles above, everybody at some stage or another has gotten away with something illegal, even I myself have done so once or twice, and that’s exactly the problem!!!

      People should not feel that they can get away with things! If the policing of laws and vehicle road worthiness was up to standard, people would think twice about doing something unlawful, because they would be punished accordingly. People should think, the rules are there for a reason and I must follow the rules as they were set there to keep order and safety. And if the rules and law are broken, you will not get away with it.

      Just imagine if taxi’s and trucks had to do regularly yearly road tests to attain road worthiness and this and this was policed properly with no bribes or a way to get out of it. Many trucks and taxi would the have to shape up or lose jobs and an income. I promise you you would see less accidents.

      Any imagine people being pulled over more regularly for reckless driving like reckless lane switching and cars being pulled over for lights not working and a hefty fine given out there and then. Slowly but surely you would see less of these incidents as people would come to realize you would not get away with it.

      But it all starts from the top. Why must we obey the laws when our president doesn’t have to? Why must our officers of the law not accept bribes and not be lazy when our president does the same? No example from the top means as we move down, people just don’t care, because who is looking after them if they don’t look after themselves? The system is corrupt from the the top down and will never change until something is not done at the top…

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