Some years ago, fed up with the lawless situation on our roads, I decided to stop moaning and start acting. So I put together a plan that I thought would not only do something about the dire situation (even if it was to save just one life), but also create jobs for previously unemployed people with a valid driver’s licence, and others with some basic computer skills.
The plan was simple. Run a fleet of unmarked cars on public roads. All the vehicles would be fitted with four hidden cameras – one facing forward, one facing backwards, and one for each flank. The vehicles would be driven around at random in our cities, recording the prevailing traffic conditions as they went along. The theory was that, within a space of two blocks, you’d probably record 10 traffic violations.
A person in the unmarked car would keep a record of any traffic violations with a time code reference by pressing a button on the camera.
That afternoon, when the vehicle returned to its base, all the memory cards, with markers for possible offences, would be handed over to the night shift. This team would then capture all the footage and compile video evidence of the violations committed. Once this was done, the video evidence would be handed over to the prosecuting authority that would process the violation and generate a suitable fine. Documents would be sent to the owner of the vehicle concerned, along with the opportunity to watch himself or herself on the internet, committing the offence.
The idea was that Average Joe motorists would have no clue that the little hatchback in front of them was actually a camera car. When the system got going, motorists might think twice before driving on the wrong side of the road to push in at the front of the queue, or magically turning a stop sign into a yield sign.
This camera system was not meant to catch speedsters. Thankfully our municipalities have got that department comprehensively covered, whatever their motives. Rather, the main focus of the roving cameras was to improve road safety by restoring a modicum of law, order and respect for our fellow motorists.
Money is always an issue, so I offered to try to source a sponsored fleet of cars, as well as sponsors who would pay the salaries of the people involved in the programme, and foot the petrol bill. It would also include the appointment of a person, approved by the relevant authorities, to manage the programme.
So the basic plan landed up, via a contact, at the Johannesburg Metro Police Department, on the desk of a senior official.
“What a brilliant plan!” he apparently said. “We’ll definitely investigate it! We’ll contact you shortly! Thank you so much for being a caring citizen!”
Guess what? They never called. And they never will. It’s just too much effort, too much out-the-box thinking for a senior metro person to comprehend.
Today the situation on our roads is 214% worse than it was in 2009. It seems Average Joe motorists are following the prime example of our Number One man when it comes to doing the right thing.
It has become a free-for-all, if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them scenario, and I reckon even minibus taxi drivers are shaking their heads in disbelief because everyone is now jumping red lights, driving into oncoming traffic and stopping how and when they please.
In short, the conditions on our roads are dire. There is a huge lack of respect for anything, anyone or any law. It’s amazing that not more people are killed.
Now it’s some years down the line, and I’m thinking about having another go. This time, though, I’m not bothering with suggesting a plan of action to the authorities. Instead, I believe Average Joe motorists can stand together and make a difference.
Change won’t come overnight, and it will never come to the extent we really want it to come, but if a campaign saves just one life, it will be worth the effort.
I propose a television programme that will feature footage of traffic violations on SA’s roads. Although we will do a lot of driving with cameras, I want to ask your help – send us footage that you have recorded with an in-car camera, your handy cam or GOPRO or Garmin Virb or whatever camera. Without placing your own safety at risk in any way, record traffic conditions and violations and send us the footage. We’ll include the worst of it in the programme.
We’ll call it Drive Alive, and if we get enough good stuff, we can air it on Ignition (DStv channel 189), and put entire episodes on youtube for the whole world to see.
Who knows… maybe such a programme would not achieve much, but I’m tired of complaining and feeling as frustrated and as powerless as I do. I want to do something.