More average speed cameras coming for Cape Town?

UPDATE: 6th October – this is now CONFIRMED

Eagle-eyed motorists will have noticed some new cameras going up on the N2 and the M3 in Cape Town. They’re on the footbridge at the Searle Street junction of the Nelson Mandela Boulevard in Woodstock, and then, heading further out of town, the footbridge on the M3 at UCT and the Main Road bridge over the Settlers Way bit of the N2.

I’m no expert in speed enforcement camera technology, but this has got ASOD written all over it:
Average Speed Over Distance.
What that means is that your number plate will be read by the camera and your journey from Woodstock to UCT (or Mowbray on the N2) and vice versa is going to be timed. Once they know how long it took you to get from A to B, it’s a simple matter to calculate how fast you were going. Since the speed limit on these bits of road is 80kph, if you average more than that, you’re going to be in trouble.

These schemes have already been used (successfully, we’re told) on the M5, the R27 and the infamous R61 near Beaufort West – the longest ASOD in the world at 72km.

Transport MEC Robin Carlisle’s office said: “Prior to the initial implementation on the R61 stretch from Beaufort West to Aberdeen, there had been a reported 509 crashes in total, 75 of which being fatal crashes resulting in the loss of 149 lives – this over the previous 12 years.
Since the implementation of Asod on the R61 stretch, we have received no reports of any fatal crashes on that stretch.”

And we were also told that this bit of road was one that they were going to be targeting in the future.

I don’t think that the rush hour traffic will be affected by this – you’re lucky if you can get up to 20kph, let alone 80. But that nice long hill down into town down Nelson Mandela Boulevard and the equally tempting dash down Hospital Bend on the way out are going to make this a big money spinner for the authorities out of hours.

Not that I’m saying that speeding motorists shouldn’t be prosecuted. Of course they should: they’re a danger to everyone around them. But given this quote from Carlisle:

“We’ll have a nice nanny state,” he said. “It’s going to be a pleasure to drive in the Western Cape once we’ve got these roads covered.”

I just wish that it wasn’t being done by such a smug twat.

Three times nothing is still nothing…

I’ve been doing some rudimentary calculations again.

During January – November 2012 (remember back then?), I was stopped a total of zero times in roadblocks in and around Cape Town. But hey, I’m an individual case with a propensity to stay home with my family on Saturday nights, so maybe that – while demonstrating that if I had been doing anything naughty on the roads (which I wasn’t), I would have got away with it – is actually fine.

Then, early last month, we were informed in an interview by Robin Carlisle, MEC for Transport in the Western Cape, on a local radio station that motorists were “three times more likely” to be stopped in a roadblock in the province during the “holiday season”. During that “holiday season”, I racked up well over 2,000km on the roads of the Western Cape. I was stopped a total of zero times.

Those rudimentary mathematicians among you will have already done the sums (or read the title of the post) and worked out, like me, that Robin was absolutely right.
The upshot of his worryingly accurate prediction has been a 6% increase in the number of deaths on the Western Cape roads during December, something Robin refers to as “disheartening”.

I’m well aware that the issues of drink driving, dangerous driving, cellphone use and not using seatbelts should be negated by sensible and responsible individual choices. Sadly, we also all know that that’s not going to happen.

But that aside, as we have mentioned many times before, it’s all very well for the authorities to go making these promises and commitments, but unless they’re actually going to back them up with solid action, things are not going to improve.

Building Bridges

Cape Town’s unfinished freeways have become something of a cult icon for the city.
Of course, we have other cult icons as well – many of them – but for those individuals who get off on major roads which have not been completed, perhaps unsurprisingly, the unfinished freeways are the cult icon of choice.

They’re famous too. They’ve been in films, music videos and just about every advert in South Africa.
They even held a giant vuvuzela during the World Cup.

Just last year, ever popular Transport MEC Robin Carlisle announced that the unfinished freeways would not be finished on his watch, citing their poor state of repair, the fact that it wouldn’t do anything to relieve traffic congestion and the huge cost involved. It seems likely that Carlisle is a descendant of Franz Schubert, who never finished his 8th Symphony for at least two of the same reasons.

However, now it seems that a young pretender to Carlisle’s throne, Councillor Brett Herron, Mayoral Committee Member for Transport, Roads and Stormwater, has other ideas about the freeways – and presumably therefore, also over the length of Carlisle’s Provincial tenure.

A proposal to partner with the University of Cape Town (UCT) to find creative ways to complete the unfinished highway on the city’s foreshore has been approved by the Portfolio Committee for Transport, Roads and Stormwater. It will soon be submitted to a full Council meeting for approval.
Students at UCT will be asked to review and consider existing proposed conceptual design reports of the incomplete sections of the Foreshore Freeway. They will then draft innovative design proposals for the incomplete sections of the Freeway taking into account its importance and critical function not only in improving access to the City, but also in improving living and working conditions for people in the CBD and surrounds.

Somewhere, towards the back of my battle worn brain, alarm bells are sounding. I think it could be something to do with the fact that despite the fact fully trained engineers and economists have suggested that there is no value in completing the freeways, Councillor Herron seems to think that students – students – may know better. And he’s asked them to be “creative” while they do it.

Oh dear.

Forgive my naivety, but surely the best way of completing the freeways – if that is the course of action you’re going to take – would be to simply join the ends of the bridges together? Sure, I know that “creativity” and “design” are ever so trendy right now, but we have enough road deaths without drunk engineering students playing on Upper Campus computers late one Friday night and us ending up with a big loop the loop outside the CTICC.

But no:

“We trust that the bright young minds of UCT’s Engineering and Built Environment faculty will find the best solution” said Cllr Herron.

Oh, do you?
And have you run that past Uncle Robin yet?

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?