South Africans and Road Safety

South Africa and road safety

No wonder my sons’ collarbone is broken and he has holes as big as five rand coins on his shoulder blade, I think when I’m folding the torn jacket to donate it to charity. We are so lucky that he is going to be okay, although his collarbone will be disfigured for life.

The first couple of nights, vivid flashbacks of our accident kept me awake. Despite the many comments of “accidents happen”, I cannot help but feel responsible and run alternative actions to have avoided the whole incident inside my head. Not only do I feel guilty for being the driver of the vehicle in which my son got hurt, I also feel responsible for my stupid behaviour which set up the causes of it. My feelings of guilt sent me into such a state of panic that I cancelled almost all our holiday plans!

Not only do I feel guilty for the hurt my son suffered, but I grieve for the fact that there are at least four permanent scars on his body – caused by me. His healing but awkward-looking collarbone will be a lifelong reminder to me: Of how stupid I was,  of how precious life is, how much this child means to me and of how one small decision can impact on another life – forever!

And here, those readers, who have, like me, suffered the loss of a loved one at the hand of a stranger, feel the hurt and anger which they have learned to live with, again. I am lucky and grateful that my son walks away with only a couple of scars, while others have lost one or more or whole families in road accidents over the past holiday season.

The media and government always seem to tackle our December and Easter holiday traffic head on: laying down rules, jacking up policing and reporting on a daily basis. Alas, all to no avail. December 2014 was not only a holiday with increased visible traffic policing, but also with the highest road accidents toll.

What is worse, is the reality of road accidents in South Africa: while we baulk at the death figures of our latest Christmas holiday, the fact is that as many people die on a monthly basis on our roads. You read right: In our country, the huge amount of road tragedies occurs in the same high numbers on a monthly basis!!!

It’s here that my pen slows down: these are the facts, but what am I doing about it? Do I add to the road rage and hoot at the idiots on the road, or do I grin and bear it for the sake of road safety? Do I drive slower, regularly, hell; do I even stick to the speed limits? Did I safety-check my vehicle before I left for my vacation drive? Do I look out for pedestrians, cyclist and motorbikes, more than I have before? Do I approach my local government representative with ideas on how to bring the road-death-toll down? Do I even have any ideas?

I’m stumped. Because our problem is not only the lack of laws, rules and law enforcers, but the many breakers of the laws: it’s our general attitude of selfishness and stupidity which is the underlying cause of so much devastation and sorrow. And I understand: I spend a minimum of two hours in Gauteng traffic daily, and my frustration and patience levels are tested, stretched and pushed all the time!

I can only hope that the sight of my sons’ smile and his skew collarbone will be a constant reminder of how lucky I am, and of how many reasons I have to drive carefully, considerately and lawfully!

And I’m convinced that you can also think of a couple of reasons for driving more carefully on the roads this year, not using your cell to text and talk whilst you drive and for buckling up. Even if those reasons are limited to the amount of loved ones you have, please do.