Home » Hey Guys – Let’s Jol & Drive Nicely this Weekend (with Tips from Down Under)

Hey Guys – Let’s Jol & Drive Nicely this Weekend (with Tips from Down Under)

Many South Africans know somebody who died in a car accident. A friend, a parent, a child, a sibling. But it is only when you travel abroad that you realise that for most of the world, losing people you love in road accidents is not as common as it can be in our beloved South Africa. On Monday […]

Many South Africans know somebody who died in a car accident. A friend, a parent, a child, a sibling. But it is only when you travel abroad that you realise that for most of the world, losing people you love in road accidents is not as common as it can be in our beloved South Africa.

South African road
Life is no dress rehearsal!

On Monday SAPeople received this private message from an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) medic in Cape Town:

“It was a very tragic and sad few days for many this past weekend at work,” he wrote.

“Over this past couple of days I got to see such pain and suffering in our beautiful City of Cape Town…tenfold…and sadly I also got to see how some people just don’t value their own lives…or the lives of others. We only get ONE life. It’s so precious. We need to appreciate each day and be that little bit kinder to each other. If some of the people this weekend had just given a little, been a little more considerate…the outcome could have been better for many.”

At least 1,368 people lost their lives on South African roads over the festive season (between 1 December 2014 – 5 January 2015). That’s a lot more than the number of children at most schools. That’s carnage.

In announcing the preliminary statistics, Transport Minister Dipuo Peters mentioned that although this was a slight reduction of 0.6% on last year’s statistic, “we have no cause to celebrate as our people continue to be killed on our roads due to irresponsible and murderous acts of fellow road users.

“These senseless killings could have been avoided if we all behaved as responsible law-abiding citizens,” she said. According to Arrive Alive, the biggest cause of road crashes in South Africa is driver error.

Minister Peters urged road users to exercise caution and refrain from contravening traffic laws – including drunken driving and texting while driving – and said road users ought to respect the lives of other road users.

She congratulated the law-enforcement agencies and government departments that worked together during the festive season to implement road safety campaigns, but said more needed to be done to bring the carnage down.

Plans include the transfer of eNaTIS from the National Department of Transport to the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) and some improved coordination of driver licence testing centres and computerised learner licence testing.

Any Tips from Abroad?

We decided to ask some South Africans in Australia and New Zealand if they’d picked up any tips in their new countries that could benefit the country they still call home, South Africa. We chose those two countries because they too are in the sunny Southern Hemisphere and have similar cars and conditions to us.

Btw – the motive here is not to compare the countries…but to find out where we can improve and learn from elsewhere. But for those who will ask – Australia is huge (SA is about an eighth the size) and SA has more than double the population of Australia’s 23-million. New Zealand only has a population of 4.5-million. In a 12-day festive period – between 23 December and 3 January – Australia lost 28 lives (which is the same as last year and half that of the previous year’s 48); and New Zealand lost 17 (which shocked the country and was more than double the deaths in the previous two festive seasons).

“Everything is the same,” says Henk Scheepers, “the only difference is the respect for the law!!!” Most agreed. The only thing nobody could agree on was whether Australian roads are better or worse. Although some did point out that they don’t have shoulders like in South Africa, so no “second or third lane can be used by those who disregard the rules of the road”.

But all agreed on these vital points for making SA’s Roads Safer: 

  1. Respect the Law and Each Other:
    “In New Zealand they have respect for the law. And for one’s life.”
    “There is a total disregard for the laws of the road in SA. It goes hands in hand with corruption at ground level. The roads are a free for all. I go back to SA regularly and it never fails to astonish me the scant regard everyone holds for the rules of the road. It’s the attitude of drivers of all races.”
    “I have lived in Australia for 12 years and have only witnessed a few small bumper bashes. When I went to South Africa in 2012, I saw one overturned Taxi with multiple deaths and a few more bad accidents in the 2 weeks there. It is all about respect for law and order. Most drivers here have respect for roads and laws and respect for police.”
    “No one here drives up your bum and flashes their lights at you. If the speed limit is 100, everyone follows that so driving is a LOT less stressful.”
    “There are so few road accidents here in comparison to SA that each and every one of them gets a mention on radio and certainly every fatality is mentioned on TV as well.”
  2. Only use Roadworthy Vehicles:
    “SA should really take vehicles off the road that are not roadworthy! Especially taxis that carry so many people. The amount of unroadworthy cars in Australia is very low and there are massive fines for businesses if their vehicles are unroadworthy.”
  3. Reduce the Speed Limit and Keep to It:
    “Speed in SA is higher.”
    “The maximum speed limit in Australia is 100 with 110 km an hour in only a few selected areas on the highway.”
    “People may push the speed limit, but they won’t over do it like in SA.”
    “A friend from SA came to Australia on holiday, and took the drive from Sydney up to the Gold Coast to visit us. Halfway up he phoned to tell me he didn’t think he’d ever make it to the Gold Coast because he’d never been on a road where cars drove so slowly.”
  4. Make it Harder to Get a Licence:
    “Australia has a system where when you start driving you are on your learner’s (L plate) for a year and have to complete 100 hours of supervised driving (normally with your mom or dad!); then you do a practical test before obtaining your first P-plates. They then complete a further two years of driving (on their own, but with restrictions) then achieve their green P’s for a further 2 years – until you’re 20 or 21 – before finally obtaining an open licence. And you have to have a 0.00 alcohol reading when driving or they will take your licence away.”
  5. Don’t Drink and Drive:
    “The alcohol limit is 0.05% in Australia (which is about two drinks for the night). With L and P plates the alcohol limit is zero [as mentioned above].”
    “Police set RBT (Random Breathalyser Test) targets they have to meet over the festive season.”
    “You don’t just get a fine but demerit points. You lose your licence very quickly for “drink driving” and they have roadblocks everywhere to do RBT – random breath tests.”
    “There are roadblocks in New Zealand in the evenings, and if you are caught with alcohol on your breath you lose your licence for six months. It’s a huge deterrent. Also pubs close at like 22h00 here. Alcohol limit is 0.05 and if caught you pay big fines in most cases or loss of licence.”
    “In New Zealand, if you’re found under the influence, you’re doomed! Demerits, licence suspended.”
  6. Don’t Overload:
    “In Australia you are not allowed to transport anyone in the back (tray) of a ute/bakkie.”
    “No overloaded taxis are allowed.”
  7. Stop the Bribing:
    “You can’t bribe the police in Australia if you’re caught speeding.”
    “It starts with the appointment of trustworthy and competent officers that are not corruptable and keen to make a fast buck…otherwise the senseless killing will continue…people speeding, knowing they can bribe their way out of it.”
  8. Promote more Awareness Campaigns:
    “There are more TV ads raising awareness in Australia, especially about driver fatigue. Here they encourage you to stop at least every two hours. I remember that scared me the most when I used to live in South Africa…going on holiday, those long drives…and all it takes is one tired person to lose focus, and others die.”
    “There’s huge advertising on TV to have a plan B to get home if you’ve had too many to drink.”
  9. Increase the Consequences – Point System, Loss of Licence and Fines:
    “In Australia not only is there the demerit point system, but over the holidays there’s double merits so if you get caught speeding or driving drunk you lose double the points and risk losing your licence.”
    “You get 12 points on your licence and points get taken off for most offences…and then you lose your licence and pay a huge fine.”
    “Australia uses a demerit point system and a fine that must be paid. For speeding, negligent driving…the list goes on. Lose 12 points and your licence is gone!”
    “The demerit points system and use of plenty of speed cameras helps keep the roads safe in Australia. The government has a $239million budget p/a for traffic infringements.
  10. Presence of Traffic Officials and Cameras:
    “There are more police out on the roads here.”
    “They also have cameras out in the out-of-way areas so if you are on the highway going from Brisbane to Sydney (about 940 kms) a hidden camera will photograph the car crossing the border from Queensland to NSW and then just before entering the outskirts of Sydney the car will be photographed again and the time noted and if you have arrived too soon they know you have exceeded the speed limit and you will be sent a fine!”

The DA has also suggested the introduction of a toll free line to report “unruly drivers on the roads”.

Until new laws are implemented, we can each do our bit. Be a little kinder, drive a little safer. Put your mobile phone in the boot. If you feel a little tipsy tonight, make sure you have a Plan B to get home. And tomorrow, when you’re enjoying those beers at the braai – ask somebody else to drive you home.

As the Cape Town medic says “sadly it’s always mad over weekends for the EMS, and believe it or not the busiest time over weekends is Sunday lunch time to early hours Monday.”

And check out Arrive Alive for Road Safety Tips…even if just to pass on some of these tips to someone you know and care about who doesn’t drive that well.

Hope you have a wonderful, safe weekend…