Ricochet News

N12 Traffic Accident: Highlights a serious lack of law enforcement

By Tai Chishakwe - Oct 17, 2014
N12 Traffic Accident: Highlights a serious lack of law enforcement

It’s easy to blame the driver involved in the N12 truck accident but I think the pile-up highlighted a serious lack of law enforcement and the prioritisation of safety on the part of everyone involved – it’s just my opinion.

If you have been following the news, the truck that caused Tuesday’s multi-vehicle N12 pile-up was on the road illegally and the driver has similar previous convictions. The licence and roadworthy certificates for both the truck and its trailer, which are supposed to be renewed annually, were last processed on 8 October 2013, Gauteng Traffic Police said on Thursday.

In short, if someone had been doing their job properly, both the driver and the truck were not supposed to be on the road that fateful morning.

You begin to wonder how many other drivers and trucks are currently driving around under similar circumstances out there…

Editor of Fleet Watch Patrick O’ Leary, says a significant percentage of trucks tested for roadworthiness usually fail.

“We still are getting a 70 percent failure rate in those exercises. So with over 530 trucks, which is a very big sample, we failed over 70 percent. That’s more than 300 trucks,” he said.

A stomach churning prospect isn’t it?

Profit above all else

You also begin to ask, was the truck’s owner, Benusi Cargo Carriers in Potchefstroom, which had another truck pulled off the road later the same day for being unroadworthy as it had four worn tyres, prioritising profit over the safety of both their driver and other road users.

How many other truck companies could be cutting the same corners right now just for a payday?

One can understand that the truck companies are also under pressure to perform financially, deliver on time, and handle their massive expenses – hence they can push their drivers and skip services, but it should not be to the extent of people losing their lives.

If the truck driver, Isaac Wade Moruding, who is now facing four counts of culpable homicide and one of reckless and negligent driving, had previous convictions of culpable homicide, and reckless and negligent driving, should he have been hired?

Apparently the State still needed to establish whether his licence was revoked following the reckless and negligent driving case but it is believed he once served a jail term for his offences.

Government response

Transport Minister Dipou Peters urged authorities to act against the owners of the truck adding that government is gravely concerned about the rate at which fatal accidents are happening on the country’s roads. She said her ministry plans to enforce stricter regulations on truck driving schools.

That’s true Minister but thought the Ministry of Transport was already enforcing regulations.

The cost

Besides the emotional trauma, injuries and deaths, South Africa's road crashes cost an estimated R307 billion each year – money that could be better spent elsewhere!

What needs to happen

It might too late for others but perhaps government could follow the UK’s example and save countless lives in the future.

Apparently, in the UK all vehicles over three years of age MUST undergo a full roadworthy test EVERY YEAR by a licensed testing facility - vehicles that pass the tests are then recorded digitally on the National Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority Database (DVLA).

A vehicle that does not pass the test CANNOT be licensed, nor can it be insured and this data is also recorded by the DVLA.

The national police - not traffic cops like we have here, also have thousands of Automatic Number-plate Recognition cameras - both in their police cars and in static locations on major routes. These cameras scan every number plate going past and check it against the DVLA database within 2 or 3 seconds.

If the report shows an unlicensed vehicle - or even a vehicle whose owner has some black marks on his/her name, or unpaid fines etc, the police can stop the car almost instantly.

The scanner cameras will also reveal an uninsured vehicle and in many cases, uninsured vehicles are not only impounded but are CRUSHED.

In 2013, the UK recorded 1 713 road deaths while South Africa recorded about 1 376 for the period December 1, 2013 to January 7, 2014 alone.

Last year, 264 people died in road crashes in Sweden – would you believe that!

Planning has played the biggest part in reducing accidents in that country’s “Vision Zero” programme. Roads in Sweden are built with safety prioritised over speed or convenience.

There are low urban speed-limits, pedestrian zones and barriers that separate cars from bikes and oncoming traffic. They have built 1 500 kilometres of ‘2+1’ roads—where each lane of traffic takes turns to use a middle lane for overtaking, which is reckoned to have saved around 145 lives over the first decade of Vision Zero.

12 600 safer crossings, including pedestrian bridges and zebra-stripes flanked by flashing lights and protected with speed-bumps, are estimated to have halved the number of pedestrian deaths over the past five years.

Strict policing has also helped: now less than 0.25% of drivers tested are over the alcohol limit. Road deaths of children under seven have plummeted—in 2012 only one was killed, compared with 58 in 1970.

Perhaps SA might learn something here!

How about cutting down the number of trucks on the roads by using alternatives like railways or exclusive lanes/roads for those trucks – most drivers will tell they are scared/irritated/annoyed by trucks anyway.

The country might need to revise its overall transport systems – and that’s my opinion. You can post your thoughts on this article on our Facebook page.