I have been involved in 2 car accidents where I was driving. Fortunately for me, there were no fatalities.
One night I was driving between 120 and 140 km/h on a 3 lane free way. I had 2 passengers, one next to me and the other sitting at the centre of the back seat. Let’s call the passenger next to me Nathan and the passenger at the back seat Grant, mostly because these are their real names. My passengers like hyperbole, they quickly put on seatbelts when I overtook a car on the middle lane as it was crawling on the fast lane. As usual, if my memory serves me well, we were snacking on a pizza or McDonalds McSomething. Suddenly ahead of us, there were flashing lights on the far left lane. It looks like there had been an accident that emergency vehicles were attending to. So I moved to fast lane since it was clear. As we came closer, a truck that had been stationary in the middle lane crawled to the fast lane. I don’t know why the truck driver had decided to let all other cars pass, except the one I was driving. He didn’t even have the courtesy to indicate that he is going to change the lane. Just about 10 metres away, we all noticed that the space on the fast lane have grown smaller due to the portion of the long 36 wheel truck that is already occupying half of the lane. We can’t change the lane because there is still emergency vehicles on the other side. The speed of our car would not permit us to come to the halt before crashing into the truck. All of us made this observation and readied ourselves for the crash. Nathan put his left hand on the dashboard as part of holding on. I didn’t have my seatbelt so I held the steering wheel very tight. Instinctively, I rested my foot on the brakes. After crashing, I prioritized checking on my passengers. They seemed fine. I noticed I was bleeding on my forehead because a lot of blood was passing my eyes. Afterwards, it emerged that my forehead had hit the windscreen. I still have scars if you look closer on my forehead (men are not welcome to check out the scars.) Nathan broke his left arm and Grant emerged unhurt.
Another night, I was driving home. Again I had 2 passengers. The identity of my passengers that night is not important. But if you insist, we will call one of them my sister, mostly because my mother gave birth to her 6 years after having given birth to me, and we’ll call the other one Brown, but it that is not her real name. Because Brown is not my sister, I was going to drop her where she was going, not my home. There is 3 or more sets of traffic lights ahead of us (in SA we call them robots, not traffic lights.) We pass the first robot. After that the 2nd robot turns Orange and I couldn’t decide whether to accelerate and pass it or stop, I eventually decide to accelerate. The problem is you don’t get good acceleration from a 1.4 VW Velocity when your gear is 3 already, even though the car is only a month old. The robots turns red as the speed begins to pick up, only to have a learner driver who had been speeding crash on my side as the driver. He was right because the robot was green on his side. My sister was sitting next to me and Brown sitting alone at the back. As is the practice, I went out to check on my passengers and on the passengers of the other car. Brown emerged without a scratch, my sister was shocked and her neck was not fine so she had to put on that thing that makes you turn your shoulders to look sideways like Robocop. I had bruises on my right arm with pieces of glass from the window. In the other car they did not have any bruises. I remember seeing slices of pizza, we must have been snacking again. I still wonder how Brown got to where she was going. I’ll ask her when I meet her one day, if I ever will.
I’m not bragging about being in accidents. I just wanted to share that I am familiar with accidents and therefore know that traffic laws are not entirely a deterrent in drivers decision making. The truck driver decided arbitrarily to narrow the lane when I approached. Mahoota, the driver of the car that crashed to me, did so because of my indecision on whether to cross an orange robot or not and having too much faith on the acceleration of a 1.4 on a high gear.
Since I started noticing, the speed limit in South Africa was 120km/h or less depending on the road you’re driving in. At the time, the road were smaller and rough. The cars didn’t have ABS, power steering and other driver aiding security features.
Recently, some roads have improved and cars have a lot of new and better features.
The traffic laws pretend that cars are created equal. There is not rational reason why a driver of a Daewoo 0.8 cc engine should be on the fast lane at 120 and have the driver of an AMG C63 trailing behind him.
Some traffic laws are just wrong and should be abolished. It is irrational, if not downright folly, to say it is a criminal offence to try and get to work on time if you woke up 10 minutes late. Really now!
Some intersections are notorious of smash-and-grab (a form of robbery conducted while-you-wait at a traffic intersection). It should not be a crime to hurry at such intersection as long as there are fewer or no cars. Intersections are not that busy at 2am and should be treated as 4 way stops. I’m told this is already the case in some European countries and at Umlazi in Durban, even though their version is not official, yet.
Last Friday I drove 138 km/h in an 80km/h zone. Objectively, the reason the speed limit is 80 is because of schools in the surrounding area. The difference is I was driving there on a Saturday, so I posed no danger to anyone. Yet the traffic officer wanted to give me a R2500 fine for that. It’s sort of like humans were made for traffic laws not the other way round. After an extensive apology and a further apology for not having the means to apologise, the traffic officer understood my circumstances and released me.
Civil Engineers should not allow lawmakers to ridicule the effort they put into building smooth roads for convenient driving. Mechanical Engineers should not allow lawmakers to ridicule the effort they put into designing and assembling great cars only to have them restrained on the road. Some traffic laws are an insult to the Engineering profession.
As you can see the parking is full. But there is unmarked space there. Why prosecute me for leaving the car there even if it does not obstruct traffic. Now I have to pay R300 because there are more cars than parking space in this town. This is really not ayoba. The fine should go to the town planner, not me. He is the one who failed to anticipate economic growth, car sales, population growth and parking space availability. Why should I pay for poor planning?
Then there is roadworthiness fines. If you see my tyre smooth, you should fine me R2200 and that fine should go to Dunlop so they can replace the tyre. Why should we pay R500 fine and then still be expected to go and pay for the replacement of the tyre. Tragically, this aspect of traffic laws affect mostly the poor. Already they are struggling maintaining their cars, in addition to that they must pay fines repeatedly at all road blocks.
I’m all for road safety. I support the arrive alive campaign and all related campaigns like “Omela ngasekhaya” (get thirsty next to home). But some laws are just out of date and should be abolished. Otherwise we will continue to have a society that is running 10 minutes behind due to traffic. Ever noticed how 8:00 meetings start at 8:10.
I’m interested in knowing how long is the jail term for not finding marked parking. Instead of paying R300 I’d rather go to jail. In fact if all the people with warrants for traffic fines were arrested, would the prisons cope with the numbers? I doubt it. Some traffic laws are superficial and unrealistic.