All mouth and no trousers?

Big words from the Western Cape Transport MEC Robin Carlisle this week on two new plans to improve road safety in the Province. Firstly, he outlined plans to institute huge fines for parents who do not belt their children in when they are in the car. And those driving on the roads of Cape Town will note that this is a very common issue. Very common.

Currently, SA law only made provision for fines of about R200 for failing to use seatbelts, Carlisle said – and children were not differentiated from adults.
He said the provincial government wanted this increased to between R4 000 and R6 000 per child, which was in line with countries such as Britain, the US and Australia.

This is, without doubt, a good idea.
The statistics stated within that report are horrendous and include (but are not limited to):

  • 85% of parents do not strap their children in.
  • Road accidents remain the top non-natural killer of children in the country.
  • Between 200 and 300 children treated for trauma at the Red Cross hospital every year, between 70 and 90 percent had been injured in car crashes.
  • About 8 000 children die each year on the roads.
  • About 89 percent of those taken to the hospital for treatment had not been wearing seatbelts at the time of the crashes.

So of course, I’m fully in support of any steps taken to reduced these injuries and fatalities. Who wouldn’t be? Reinforcing the laws around kids and seatbelts is a good idea and upping the fines for those who don’t comply is a no-brainer.

The trouble is that it’s illegal to talk on one’s cellphone while driving, to speed and, in fact, to not wear a seatbelt yourself. It’s illegal to drive while under the influence of alcohol. But people still do it. And they do it because they can – and do – get away with it.
Remember this?

The spokesman for Cape Town Traffic Services, Kevin Jacobs, said 4 184 drivers in six months had been fined for the unlawful use of a cellphone while driving.

From which I calculated this?

4,200 in 6 months. That’s 700 a month. Or 24 a day. 1 an hour.
In a city with 3,000,000+ inhabitants. It’s a drop in the ocean.

So the laws are there, but the fact that they’re just not enforced means that the driving public feel that they don’t have to obey them. As Mrs El Presidenté said of the “Buckle up your kids, or pay” article, on Facebook:

Nice idea, but exactly how are they going to police it?

And I agree: this is pretty much worthless without backup. However, I’m also aware that the first step is to at least have decent laws to enforce. At the moment, we don’t even really have that. So this is a move in the right direction.

But perhaps a better way of making the roads a safer place to be is to change driver attitude and raise awareness of the effects of poor or illegal driving practices. And Robin Carlisle has made plans here too, with the new Crash Witness website, featuring genuine CCTV footage of accidents on the Province’s highways.

Described as:

Not for sensitive viewers /Ayilungiselelwanga abaButhathaba / Nie vie sensitiewe kyker nie

it is obviously designed to encourage drivers into thinking before they engage in dangerous driving. When I visited the site yesterday and again this morning, the videos refused to play – which merely served to encourage a lot of frustration here Chez 6000. I had to have a couple a Red Bulls to calm myself down before hitting the M3 into town.

I very much doubt that it will be possible to measure the results that Crash Witness may/will have in the Western Cape. I presume that beneficial effects from this type of thing have been shown elsewhere. But again – anything which improves the safety of our roads has got to be a step in the right direction.

What do you think? Do you buckle your kids up when you are driving? If not, why not?
Do you use your cellphone at the wheel? If so, why? What would make you stop?

10 thoughts on “All mouth and no trousers?

  1. All good comments but personally I think the biggest problems lie around enforcement. With little enforcement, the average idiot driver feels there’s no need to follow the rules (drive Hospital Bend at rush hour to see the best example of this – the new merging lanes are where the old-M5-pushing-into-the-queue-idiots go for fun these days).

    Work is in Woodstock and Main Road’s a bit of a mess at the best of times – especially lunch time and in the evenings. In 4 years I have yet to see a traffic patrol of any sort policing the illegally parked cars obstructing traffic, taxis stopping where they please or delivery trucks simply parking in the road.

    And even when there is police presence… this morning on Claremont Boulevard I passed a taxi that was on a red line, under a No Stopping sign, happily offloading passengers whilst across the road a traffic cop sat in his car watching the scene and not doing much else.

    So… two issues: not enough traffic cops ( and no clear way of holding those cops accountable. What’s needed is a hotline where people can report cops being lazy without fear of intimidation.

  2. Rich > You mentioned Hospital Bend and I’m indeed fortunate not to have to drive that bit of rad twice a day any more (I get to do Koeberg Interchange instead), but I am told that the new road markings on the way out of town, preventing taxis from getting from right to left, have worked or at least are working.
    This is a good example of how having a law there (in this case, the solid white lines) does at least give you the option to prosecute. But yes – that’s assuming that you have a enough traffic cops to police it effectively. Which we don’t.

  3. My personal opinion is that the type of idiot that drives drunk, and at twice the legal speed limit, will watch these videos out of some morbid curiousity about what won’t happen to them. Everyone knows that it’s illegal, everyone knows that it’s potentially dangerous, yet they do it anyway because “it won’t happen to me”. Same goes for buckling up the kids. Everyone knows it’s dangerous, but ag shame, little X doesn’t like the seat. My kids from the first time they got in the car were buckled into an age appropriate seat (in fact, they were buckled in BEFORE they even got in a car for the first time), and now, 3 years later, if for some reason we forget to buckle the elder kid in (distractions happen when you’re dealing with 2 kids, shopping, sundry kiddie bags and the weather by yourself), she yells blue bloody murder until we do strap her in.

    But long story short, all these things won’t make a jot of difference for two very simple reasons: 1) The police are useless, and 2) the it won’t happen to me syndrome.

  4. My 2yo niece died in a car accident sitting on my SIL’s lap, so I am fanatic about strapping kids in.
    I agree with the comments about policing, so maybe there should rather be a special place to send the “name and shame” pictures? A special #tag on twitter perhaps?

  5. ADSL > Here’s an interesting point.
    Many people complained about the extra roadblocks to catch fine dodgers this year. BUT – all the money from those fines goes into road traffic management. That includes funding of traffic police. I wonder what difference the almost R1bn outstanding in fine in Cape Town alone could make to the number of cops to police these new laws.

    Gary > Yep – same here. I’m not allowed to drive anywhere without the kids belted in a I have two small alarms in the back seats. My boy won’t even go on playdates from school if the other kid’s parent doesn’t have car seats.

    Tania > Sad that it takes a personal event to make people realise that it could happen to them too.
    The twitter thing is an interesting idea.

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