Posted on 29-09-2014
Filed Under (Industry News) by Chloe Davies

Speed

Durban – Drop the speed limit and hire more traffic police, or you will be left with blood on your hands.

This was the stark warning to the government from Road Safety Action Campaign founder Richard Benson after Tuesday’s bus crash near KwaMashu’s Bridge City mall, which claimed the lives of four passengers and left 28 injured.

The driver of the bus told authorities that the bus’s brakes had failed, causing it to veer off the road and roll 50 metres down a steep embankment.

But Benson said the driver might have had more control of the situation if the speed limit was not 60km/h – as is the case in most built-up areas – but 30-40km/h.

“By dropping the speed limit to 100km/h on the open road, we can reduce road carnage, as has been seen in other countries, including deaths and injury, by up to 80 percent,” he said.

While there was no evidence that this particular bus had been speeding, it might have been prevented from being on the road altogether if it had been stopped by traffic authorities and thoroughly inspected.

Benson said there were more than 10 million vehicles registered in South Africa and only about 17 000 traffic officers.

“If the laws are changed, more money needs to be pumped into training the people who enforce them.”

“Surely, a vehicle’s brakes don’t just suddenly fail; the vehicle must have been in a state of disrepair, which would have been seen if it had been recently inspected. Where are our traffic cops?”

Meanwhile, Road Traffic Inspectorate spokeswoman Zinhle Mngomezulu said it still had to perform a thorough inspection of the vehicle. A preliminary check had been done, and according to its disc (issued during routine road checks), it had been deemed roadworthy.

But Benson was not convinced. “Doing a check now, after the accident, doesn’t help those people who died. We need to have the capacity to prevent these types of mishaps.”

Benson added that other countries, which had suffered extreme losses of lives on their roads, had implemented the relatively small change, and experienced huge differences.

“According to the World Health Organisation, Australia had only seven deaths on the road per 100 000 people in 2009. Canada had slightly more at nine; South Africa recorded 33 deaths per 100 000 people in the same year.”

“Also keep in mind that for every person killed in an accident, an average of three more are injured.”

He added that travelling time would not be severely affected by lower mandatory speeds, even over longer journeys.

“Nobody drives at full speed all the time, no matter what the speed limit is. Motorists have to slow down for taxis, trucks and animals on the roads,” he said.

“The trip would only be lengthened by 10 percent, and you arrive alive.”

In January 2014 transport minister Dipuo Peters said that conditions of law enforcement officers and road safety practitioners would be reviewed, national norms and standards adopted, and traffic law enforcement would be applied consistently at national, provincial and local levels of government, while recruitment of more law enforcement officers would receive attention.

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