Twitter has to be one of the best inventions humanity has yet come up with. Twitter and on-line check-in for flights are top of my personal list of the best things invented in the last decade.
Both of them make my life just that little bit easier. I can, for example, check the traffic situation on my route home before leaving the office, and more often than not I decide to just stay put and get some more work done. Not only does Twitter save me heaps of time — it also makes me a more productive person.
The Twitter traffic feeds usually include images of whatever incidents have occurred on the specific day. I tend to look at these images, wondering how it was physically possible to get into that unfortunate situation.
I’ve long held the belief that we South Africans are a lawless bunch. In the case of e-tolling, I find this attitude amusing, but when it comes to disregarding the major rules of the road, I find it unacceptable.
According to the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) website, about 300 people die on our roads every single week and a significant proportion of these fatal accidents occur because of human error. The RTMC also claims that 65% of fatal crashes are accident related, while 40% of road deaths involve pedestrians, a significant proportion of whom are drunk.
The rest of the fatalities can probably be blamed on offences like driving an unroadworthy vehicle, not having a licence, inconsiderate driving and overtaking when it’s not appropriate.
The Western Cape government seems to have had enough of this unruly behaviour. It recently announced that traffic fines would increase drastically in the Cape from the beginning of August, in some cases by as much as 300%.
Not that it matters, though, because South Africans have an abysmal record when it comes to paying fines. There are many contradicting statistics out there, but a figure of 33% of fines being paid seems about right. That means 67% of South Africans couldn’t care less if the fines go up, because they’ll just keep on not paying them.
It also doesn’t help that the traffic authorities are obsessed with speeding fines. It’s easy to see why this is so, however. It takes zero manpower and the resulting income, even with a non-payment rate of 67%, is immense. The provincial or municipal authorities need only to hide a traffic officer behind a bush for a few hours to keep the millions rolling in.
This has always upset me, because speed in itself isn’t that dangerous. Speed needs to be combined with something else, like alcohol or an unsafe following distance, to make it dangerous. And besides, Arrive Alive reckons that speed is a factor in only a third of all fatal accidents, so it seems it’s getting a disproportionate amount of attention, but that’s an argument for another day.
The main difference in the Cape is that their Transport MEC, Donald Grant, has stated that the province is going to increase the number of roadblocks aimed at actually catching these culprits. Let’s hope this promise includes an increase in visible policing as well, as that’s the only real way to stop people from driving while drunk.
This offence has a very real punishment you can’t ignore. If found guilty of drunk driving, your licence will be suspended for a while, but that’s the least of your problems. It’s the possible six-year sentence, or fine of up to R120 000 that’s really going to hurt, not to mention the fact that you’ll have to live with a criminal record for the rest of your life.
This seems fair to me, but what doesn’t seem fair is the fine for drunk walking. Surely if a large portion of road fatalities involve drunk pedestrians, the fine for drunk strolling should be higher than the current R300 admission of guilt?
I’ve never thought about this problem much, but for the last few weeks I’ve made a point of looking out for drunken wanderers. I stopped counting when I reached 30.
At least it’s not only a South African problem. On a recent trip to Namibia, I saw one man attempting to cross a street while under the influence of alcohol. He was quite possibly the drunkest person I have ever seen, but his determination fought the influences of the booze so hard that he walked right in front of my car. Luckily, I was driving at less than 40km/h, but only because the car at the very front of our convoy had warned us by radio that there was a drunk person in the road.
The only solution to our road carnage is an uncorrupted, visible police force. Increasing the level of a fine won’t achieve anything, but the prospect of a real live policeman pushing your face into a window and arresting you for doing something stupid would definitely make you think twice about transgressing the law.