Whose Fault Is It Anyway?

Part – indeed much – of my journey home from work features the M5 and much of that journey is usually rather slow. It gives me a chance to have a look around at the fetid industrial heartland of Cape Town, before I head down into the leafier suburbs further south.

As I’ve mentioned once or twice before, Cape Town (and South African) drivers in general seem incapable of obeying the rules of the road, but two incidents that I’ve spotted over the past couple of days have left me intrigued from a legal point of view.

The first involved a vehicle from the Provincial Motor Transport fleet. The guy driving it was talking on his cellphone and so he wasn’t paying a huge amount of attention to his driving. Thus, he veered into the yellow lane at the side of the freeway, where he almost hit a cyclist. Whose fault would that have been? You might think that it’s a bit of a no-brainer: driver on cellphone, not paying attention, veers, hits cyclist. Blame driver.
But of course, the cyclist shouldn’t have been there anyway, since they aren’t permitted to be on freeways (or to ride 2 abreast or to go through red lights or to go the wrong way down one way streets or do all the other illegal things that cyclists do). So maybe the driver could have argued that the it should have been safe for him to veer to the left without fear of squashing anyone.

The second is more clear cut. A van, delivering gas (gas go boom boom if van crashes), travelling in the right hand lane, spots a phat traffic jam ahead and decides he wants nothing to do with it. Helpfully, there’s a junction right there, so he can nip off the freeway and avoid the delay. There are just two things stopping him from carrying out this manoeuvre: there’s a solid white line and a lane of traffic to… no… wait… there’s apparently nothing stopping him from carrying out this manoeuvre as he lurches violently to the left and almost hits a Renault Scenic. Whose fault would that have been? Well, his, obviously.
Except for the fact that the woman driving said Scenic could have done a whole lot more to avoid the potential accident if she hadn’t been smoking a fag with one hand, doing her make-up with the other and being on the phone with the third. Her value as a witness would have been compromised by her extensive head injuries suffered in the accident as she wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.
But then the gas go boom boom would have killed us all anyway.

I spot a lot, but then, it’s a long, slow journey and there’s a lot to spot. But then I followed a Ghost Squad (unmarked traffic police) car down the M5 the other evening and was amazed at what he apparently didn’t spot. In the 3.5kms that I was right behind him, I counted 27 different offences by various motorists. No seatbelts, unrestrained kids, drivers using cellphones, crossing solid white lines, fag butts out of windows, a couple of cyclists etc etc.

He apparently saw nothing. Neither did the Ghost Squad motorbike that passed us both by Kromboom Road.

With law enforcement like that, it’s no wonder that drivers believe that they can break the law with impunity, and it’s no wonder that South Africa’s road death statistics are so horrific.

More Logic From Lewis

We’re not huge fans of the self-titled “Human Polar Bear”, Lewis Pugh, here at 6000 miles… as you may remember from such posts as Do Some Fracking Reading from earlier this year. Pugh’s tactics to get people onto his side rely on emotion and irrationality rather than any sort of logic – which is an unnecessarily juvenile and unhelpful approach to what are (or should be) important debates.

Well, now he’s back with a corker of a tweet from this morning:

Cue over 40 sycophantic retweets and you can almost imagine people reading it and thinking “By golly, he’s correct! People die on the roads and they never shut them down for 5 days! I must forward this to all my friends and followers immediately.”

But for those who can manage to get past the kneejerk reaction and who choose to analyse further, what is it that Lewis actually saying here? It seems to me that he is irritated by the dichotomous reactions to the shark attack in Fishhoek last week and the horrendous statistics of fatalities on our local roads. In my mind, there’s absolutely no reason that these two completely unlinked things should be treated in the same manner, but Lewis obviously disagrees.

So what exactly does he suggest? Well, based on the tweet above, I guess it’s one of two things: either he wants Fishhoek beach reopened or he wants the RSA roads closed for 5 days.

Of course, choosing to close down the entire road network of a country is not a decision to be taken lightly. The effect on the economy of even a minor early morning fender bender on Hospital Bend and the subsequent delays is often quoted as running into six figures. And that’s just one road, in one city, for just one hour.
Can you even begin to imagine the impact of shutting every road in the entire country down for five days?

According to this page, the network of roads in South Africa amounts to a staggering total of 755,000 kilometres. And Lewis wants all of that shut down for 5 days?

Does Mr Pugh perhaps have shares in the local traffic cone industry?

That’s not going to work.
Better then that we find an alternative, and of course, Lewis has that covered: let’s reopen Fishhoek beach.

This is an undoubtedly brilliant plan, because not only is it easier to do than closing three-quarters of a million kilometres of roads, but it also uses fewer traffic cones and there’s obviously nothing that could assist Cape Town’s vital tourism industry more than the city being labelled as the Shark Attack Capital Of The World. People will flock from all over the planet to swim in our waters and enjoy traumatic amputations of their lower limbs or – if they choose to take the five star package – death, at the hands of the super-predators in our waters.
Those ridiculing the buffoonery of Michael Cohen will have to SIT DOWN, because purposefully wading out into shark-infested waters is the new black, according to Lewis.

Does Mr Pugh perhaps have shares in the local private medical industry?

Because I’m struggling to see any benefit to anyone else in putting people at great risk of getting attacked by the obviously hungry great whites in False Bay. Perhaps Lewis, with his impeccable aquatic pedigree, would like to be the first to go for a dip beyond the breakers. Shall we get the air ambulance ready, Lewis, since you’ve already closed all the roads?

And as an aside, even while I’m writing this:

Is there a way that we could reduce the number of people killed on our local roads? Is there a better way to symbiotically manage human/shark interactions off our coastline? I guess that the answer to both of these questions is “possibly” – maybe even “probably”.
But despite deciding to comment on these issues Lewis Pugh once again offers nothing realistic, sensible or helpful to the debate.

Spot the difference

This one will test you. Two stories, remarkably similar, but… not.

A driver found guilty of killing another motorist as she used her mobile phone to send a string of text messages and make calls has been jailed.

Phillipa Curtis, from Suffolk, crashed into Victoria McBryde’s parked car at 70mph on the A40 near Wheatley – Ms McBryde was fatally injured.

The 21-year-old was found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving at Oxford Crown Court at an earlier hearing. She was jailed for 21 months and given a three-year driving ban.


The sentencing of a Labour peer who sent and received text messages while driving on the M1 where he was involved in a fatal crash has been adjourned.

Lord Ahmed, 51, of Rotherham, was driving his Jaguar when he collided with another car on Christmas Day 2007. The driver of the vehicle, Martyn Gombar, 28, was killed.

Lord Ahmed was never charged over the crash but admitted one charge of dangerous driving in connection with sending and receiving the text messages while driving.

The lesser charge of dangerous driving carries a maximum sentence of 2 years imprisonment as opposed to that of causing death by dangerous driving, which can carry up to 14 years.

The lesson here? Don’t send text messages while driving your car. But if you do, then make sure you are a Labour peer and not a waitress.