Missed by blitz, but…

While I drove all around the city this week, I didn’t pass through a single roadblock in the supposed traffic blitz that was an attempt to rake in the almost R600m that the city drivers owe in fines. We all heard about the roadblocks though. Especially the big finale on the M5 on Friday afternoon, which @capetownfreeway sensibly described as “Congestion”, rather than “Police trying to catch fine dodgers”.

Colour me unimpressed. Although I have never had a traffic fine in my life, how many drivers who did owe didn’t have to pass through a check either?

What has impressed me more, however, is the adoption of the new Cape Town Traffic Bylaw, which means that (amongst other things), repeat offenders will be fined more (and we’re assuming that they will pay up?) and that they may have their cellphones taken from them if they are seen using them at the wheel.

“They can’t do that – it’s illegal!” whine the whiners, but they’re wrong. There’s a long-term precedent for impounding of property – vehicles and animals are good examples.


Just as you would if your motor vehicle were towed away, you will now need to visit the pound in order to redeem your phone.

“This is obviously not a step we were keen to take,’ says JP Smith, Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security “but the reality is that distracted driving, mainly due to talking or texting on cell phones while driving, is one of the four major causes of death on the road.” The other three are speed, alcohol and not wearing safety belts.

Distracted driving, as it’s known, is a well-known cause of road fatalities; this includes changing radio channels and talking or texting. At the moment, notes Alderman Smith, the fines for these offences are too small to make an impression and there are insufficient traffic enforcement resources to ensure that offences are dealt with often enough to modify offender behaviour.

“We have also created tougher sentences for driving without a safety belt – another big cause of fatalities. Of course a seatbelt doesn’t prevent a crash, but in the event of such an event, it can be the difference between life and death.”

At last. I hope, as Alderman Smith suggests, that they are serious about using the new bylaw. My kids and I nearly got wiped out at the traffic lights on Waterloo Road today.
We were stationery, since the light was red, the daft cow in the Opal Corsa Lite “S” (seriously, it’s a Corsa Lite – don’t attract further attention by adding a big red letter) came up behind us doing [cough] “sixty”, saw us VERY late because she was texting on her white BB and just missed us, finally skidding into the kerb about 50cm behind us. She wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, incidentally. So that gives her at least three out of four of the major causes of death on the road.
Anyway, I got a fright, she got a fright (and probably BBM’d her friends about it as she drove away), the kids were unaware, unperturbed and therefore unmoved by the entire incident.

Which is just about the best result I could have wished for, save for her phone being impounded, like her brain obviously had been.

10 thoughts on “Missed by blitz, but…

  1. “Distracted driving, speed, alcohol and not wearing safety belts.”

    Yes, the above is “the four major causes of death on the road.”

    But accidents are also caused by people driving too slow, or people driving recklessly.

    Broken down by demographics, accidents are mostly caused by:

    1. Old people — Driving too slowly and thus irritating people who are struggling to make a living.

    Old people cannot avoid accidents because there response time is too slow, or they simply did not see it coming.

    As they are usually extremely stubborn in their ways and more so in their driving habits, I believe we will achieve major safety by:

    NOT allowing people older than 70 years on the road — provided that they have an accident-free history.

    2. Young people — Driving too fast without the experience of handling fast cars.

    They are usually drunk, and do not have enough experience in drunken driving.

    As they are the demographic who are constantly using electronic devices, driving licences should only be issued to people older than 21 years of age.

    3. Woman drivers — Driving too slowly, or driving too fast, while texting the work, talking to their husbands, shouting at their children playing or fighting in the car, this demographic can never merge into the traffic flow.

    It will be a step in the right direction to keep these people permanent in the left lane where possible.

    4. Uneducated drivers — No driving licences should be issued to people without formal education — al least a grade-12-education.

    (This should also take care of some bigger accidents where only one vehicle is involved.)

    5. The rest of us — We are the breadwinners in the family, and yes, we DO drive fast, and yes, we ARE sometimes drunk, but we got the experience of getting out of a tight spot, we know how to avoid accidents, and we are actually on the lookout for others drivers in order to PREVENT accidents, not causing them.

  2. So, according to carlbothabp, the only people who should be allowed to drive are men, (probably would prefer them to be white as well), aged between 40 and 60?

    Way to go with the stereotypes.


  3. Gary, no, I know my people — 20 to 80 for white men should be OK — IF and only if YOU want to commit stereotypeing.

  4. What? And allow me to drive? You’ve got to be frigging nuts…after all, I too spend copious amounts of time with little children in my car, and a cellphone. Oh yes, and a radio that periodically needs it’s volume adjusted.

    The way carlb writes, I almost think he believes it’s ok to drive drunk if you’ve done it often enough. Although how one does it often enough to get experienced if you’re not allowed to do it until you’re experienced enough is a bit of a mind-bender.

  5. One more comment, I’m pretty sure the guy who wrote himself (and his Lamby) off over the weekend was pretty well educated, in the target age group (so had all the experience allegedly required), was not checking his make up (so not a woman) and didn’t involve any other cars. So on which point should he have been denied a license?

    Reckless or irresponsible driving sums up most of the reasons why there are accidents on the roads. Because between those two terms you can divide up pretty much all the other reasons. And yes, it’s a good thing that they want to clamp down on that. A very good thing. As someone who quite frequently travels long distances across this country, it’s something that needs some serious attention nationally.

    But the authorities have a bigger role to play than just that. They actually need to get their heads around the fact that more accidents are caused through frustration than speed. Speed only kills when someone does something stupid. Otherwise you just get to your destination a bit quicker. It’s the removing of the doing something stupid (e.g. overtaking into oncoming traffic for one) that will lower the death rate on our roads.

  6. The thing about stereotypes is that they exist for a reason. And no, it’s rarely PC (or maybe even 100% accurate to use them), but they aren’t just made-up.

    As for your frustration vs speed thing, people get frustrated in the UK when they’re stuck behind a lorry on (say) the A38, but they seem to overtake into oncoming traffic a whole lot less. So, rather than educating the authorities as you suggest, maybe we need to educate the drivers better?

  7. Gary: “I almost think he believes it’s ok to drive drunk if you’ve done it often enough. ”

    Gary, I was a kid — with a brain wide-open to imprinting — when this song was a hit:


    “Have a drink – have a drive – go out and see what you can find”

    But seriously, the only way to educate drivers, is if the Traffic Police is doing there work — namely, education.

    This would mean that they should not be income-driven — by way of fines — but that they should be seen in accident prone areas, and not be seen where they can slap you with the highest fine possible.

    It would also mean that they should become less aggressive and more polite.

  8. As with most things, I do agree with education being key. For both parties actually. From the authority perspective, there are things they need to realise (like the fact that solely focusing on speed is idiotic). By way of example, let’s take the stretch of road between Beaufort West and Laingsburg. All along that road are signs saying “speed kills” and “if tired, rest”. Not necessarily bad advice, but here’s my point. Nowhere along that road (200km of one of the most lethal stretches of road anywhere in the country – where time between deaths is measured in hours, not even days) is there a third lane to facilitate overtaking. Unless they’ve added it since January. I have been stuck behind a truck on that stretch once doing 70km/h (it’s a 120km/h zone) for 20 minutes. Now since I had only just left Beaufort West after a good nights sleep, and the kids were sleeping happily in the back, it wasn’t too much of a problem for me. But I could seriously understand how someone stuck similarly having left Johannesburg some 10 hours previously with 2 grumpy kids in the back could find that to be a very stressful situation. A simple periodic overtaking lane would’ve made it a whole lot safer situation.

    Of course, that example also goes to show the other side of the coin, where the motorist needs to keep their heads. It’s easy to get frustrated when behind the wheel, even when fresh. When you’re tired (and after 10 hours behind the wheel you’re buggered, no matter who you think you are), that frustration can very easily turn into a misjudgement.

    So yes, education is key. For both parties. Both those that have to do the enforcement and try to save lives, and those who endanger their own lives and those of others.

    As for stereotypes, the problem is that they’re formed on perceptions of a few cases, rather than the reality of the majority.

  9. Gary, also agree with you — among other things — about that stretch of road you are talking about.

    Isnt that where Shell wants to do some fracking?

    (Maybe the Boere-Karoo-Bossie-Huggers will allow Shell to do all the fracking they want yo on the condition that they build a six-lane-road to Cape Town …)

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