Our latest contributor, Sammy Slowpoke, takes a look at the current state of SA’s traffic.

It’s a well-known fact that South Africa has one of the poorest road safety records in the entire universe. Yes this may be a slight exaggeration, but it’s certainly one of the worst on this orb we call Mother Earth. The downward spiral on our roads has been coming for years, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get better without some serious law intervention.

Aside from the horrific statistics we hear every Christmas and Easter, along with the accompanying drivel the politicians and those supposedly in charge of the transport ministry spew promising to improve each year, nothing seems to change.

Click here to read the opinion of another contributor to our site, Felix Sourgrapes, on the new Toyota Supra.

Lawlessness?

Take a drive anywhere on our roads and its not hard to see where the problems lie; overtaking on solid lines, on blind rises, driving on the wrong side of the road against the flow of traffic (Yes Mr. Taxi driver, we have noticed this slight bending of the rules on occasion – and by occasion I mean every day…). The list goes on.

It ultimately boils down to one thing; blatant disregard for the rules of the road, or as I like to put it, “The I Don’t Give a S*** Principle”.My current pet peeve with regards to poor road manners is the use, or rather lack, of stop signs and traffic lights. Both of these traffic control measures have become hugely dangerous at intersections in my neighborhood, and I doubt its limited only to my neck-of-the-woods.

Every day we take our lives in our hands and are required to keep our wits about us just tootling around the streets of our ’hood. Vehicles simply do not stop, never mind slow down any longer for stop signs or traffic lights.

We’re all to blame

In the past much of the blame for bad driving was lumped on venerable mini-bus taxi drivers, the need to get their fares to the destination and reload for the return journey had over-ridden all concerns for the safety of passengers and other road users. This trend has changed somewhat, no the taxi drivers haven’t, not one bit, however, the regular drivers on our roads have simply decided that if you can’t beat them, join them, and the ever-growing turmoil on our roads continues unabated.

Every morning my trusty pooches and I embark on our daily walk, fortunately the streets in the area we live have wide pavements for us to walk on. It’s when we traverse the intersections that the trip gets interesting. Stop signs in most cases are regarded as, “I will slow down just enough so that people know I have seen the signs, even though I have no intention of adhering to them”.

Most drivers, however, don’t even bother to alter their speed, which I must add is usually a lot faster than would be expected in a built-up area – this is just a feeling I have rather than a scientific speed test. So great care is needed where these are found. I have lost count the number of times my four-legged friends and I would have sustained serious injury, or worse, had we embraced the pedestrian right-of-way rule (which I believe still exists according to K53).

Green is for…

Traffic lights are a different story altogether. In the unusual event that the traffic lights are in perfect working order, by virtue of it being one of those unique times Eskom isn’t load-shedding, the usual operation thereof seems to be: green is go, amber is prepare to stop if safe, and red is, well, stop.

Most of us tech-savvy social media types have read or heard the joke about how traffic lights are really utilized; green is go – no change there. Amber is, well, “hit the accelerator because I don’t want to get caught going too slow through the red light, (And if I do try stop on amber the guy behind me, who has no intention of stopping either, becomes my newest boot badge)”. Red, in most cases, is, “oh I missed the amber altogether, therefore, its necessary for me to speed up, even more, to make it through”.

In countries more sophisticated than ours, they have added a fourth dimension to the way traffic lights operate, they include amber between the red and the green, and woe-betide anyone who hasn’t started moving the second amber appears. That would simply add a further level of confusion to our road users.

And of course, when the traffic lights are not working, due to our friends at Eskom or otherwise, these are supposed to be treated as a stop street. Which is exactly how they are treated, nobody stops at them… The same applies to a flashing red; this simply means proceed as if the lights do not exist…

How do we fix it?

So what is to be done about the state in which we find our roads, and in particular this issue around the stop signs and the traffic lights?

Until such time as the law enforcement community gets off their butts and actually carries out said law enforcement, instead of hiding in bushes waiting to fleece motorists out of their hard-earned cash through fines or bribes, then I’m afraid not a lot will be done.

So in the mean time, lets rather take down those pesky stop signs and traffic lights, they aren’t serving a purpose in any case. We can sell the metal for scrap, use them to produce more toll gantries or even build RDP houses.

And those beautiful red, amber and green lenses from the traffic lights will make wonderful ashtrays, snack bowls, decoupage accompaniments, retro disco lights…