Opinion

OPINION: Common sense and courtesy could limit the carnage

Leaders at all levels should take a 'the buck stops here' stance and get their acts together.

I can only agree with the sentiments expressed by the South Coast Herald and the readers and deplore the loss of life, injuries and waste of money and effort caused by very poor driving on South African roads.

The solution is simple. It is to apply the three basic principles of traffic control. These are not my invention but the doctrine of the Institute of Traffic Officers. Having been a ‘traffic cop’ in Joburg as a young man, I was taught the three Es of traffic control. They are engineering, education and enforcement.

However, applying these principles in practice requires leaders, from the President down; it has to start at the top to be really effective. Leaders at all levels should take a ‘the buck stops here’ stance and get their acts together.

Engineering: On the South Coast there is a huge problem in that the roads (except for the highways) were never designed to carry the volumes of traffic they do. The situation can be alleviated at much less cost by the better use of signs such as ‘blind rise, blind corner’ reminders of the speed limit and the removal of trees and bushes that encroach over, and on to, the roads. Needless to mention, but obvious, is the timely and effective repair of road surfaces; not patch work which is washed away by the next rains. Of course, there are costs but funerals and hospital treatment also cost ‘an arm and a leg’.

Education: This should start at home and be reinforced at schools. Over and above the rules of the road young people should be taught the implications of the laws of physics. The faster you go and the heavier your vehicle the greater will be the impact when things go wrong. As an aside, vehicle/taxi owners who insist on quick turn-around times are contributing to the problem. Safer driving habits will reduce the cost of repairs, replacement of tyres, etc.

Enforcement: This is a short term solution. It requires that there be sufficient traffic officers who are properly trained and who are prepared to enforce the rules and, if necessary, in this day and age, they need to be protected. A big problem here on the South Coast is the absence of places where vehicles can be stopped safely for mechanical checks and the issuing of tickets.

Courtesy is not on the ITO’s list but a culture of yielding right of way and the acknowledgement of such gestures can increase the flow of traffic and reduce frustration.

It all boils down to common sense which, unfortunately, is not very common.

I hope that, somehow, this is read by councillors, heads of departments and teachers and taken to heart. The shaking of heads and wringing of hands is of no help whatsoever.

PAT MARSHALL

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