This past Saturday we were listening to the news on the radio, whilst on our way home from Builders Warehouse - we're busy with a few projects in and around the house at the moment - the newsreader happened to mention that the autopsies of the 7 Wits students, who had tragically lost their lives in a road accident, at the beginning of the month had been completed.
As she was rattling off what they were all studying prior to their deaths, only then did it dawn on me how tragic this accident was; we as a country in that one accident lost 7 future teachers, engineers, lawyers, doctors and actuaries. In a country like ours, can we really afford to lose youngsters - who were all studying professions that are in such dire need here in South Africa - to a taxi accident? Aside from the fact that so many people in our country put their lives at risk every time they climb into one of these taxis - which is their only form of transport.
From what I understand, the taxi collided with the trailer of an overturned truck and caught fire with all the victims stuck inside the vehicle. I understand how that can happen but what confuses me most is that this was an avoidable accident with the innocent passengers paying with the ultimate price, their lives. Should the taxi driver not have been able to see the trailer of the overturned truck had he been traveling at a safe following distance? Why did he not see the trailer? Was he speeding? If visibility was an issue, why had he not slowed down to a safe driving speed? These are just some of my thoughts on this subject matter.
The same long weekend that this accident happened, a further 230 people lost their lives to accidents on the road - we were also on the road over that weekend; traveling from Durban to Johannesburg and back - Chris made sure that he followed the correct speed limits, safe following distance.s and also just generally keeping an eye out for what other drivers were getting up to. I had checked my tyre pressure and made sure all was in correct working order with my car (even though I drive a relatively safe car and know all is in working order, I always double-check) before I and / or we hit the roads in my car - like we are taught to do whilst learning to drive. Not to forget taking regular breaks to stretch your legs - if you're driving long distances, there's really no need to rush it - if you're pressed for time rather catch a flight, if possible. Do you follow these guidelines? Or are you one of those people who think, 'ah I have been driving for 10, 20, even 30 years - I know what I am doing'. 'Who cares if my car is not completely roadworthy?' 'Why do I need to observe safe following distances?' 'I've been driving for so long, I can anticipate anything.'
That's where the problem starts, in my opinion.
Yes, we all know taxi drivers are a law unto themselves here in South Africa and they generally do what they want but one can't point fingers and say ah well a taxi was involved in that accident, they were at fault - even though 90% of the time it may be true - it's about holding yourself accountable too. Do you hold yourself accountable when driving?
My headlight recently needed to be replaced.
When I ask if you hold yourself accountable whilst driving, I mean; do you indicate your intention to turn or merge into another lane every time? Do you buckle up and insist your passengers buckle up too? Refuse to use your cellphone whilst driving? Are you driving with a legal drivers license? Is your car in good working order? Do you follow the rules of the road? Stick to speed limits? If you can't answer yes to these few questions, then - in my opinion - all of us aren't really in a position to point fingers at other irresponsible drivers, are we? I don't like to think of myself as naive, I get it - life happens and our driving skills adjust accordingly. I think the one small change that may make a difference in this regard and I also like to think that all of us can attempt trying it - by simply being considerate. I try to be, do you?
My one headlight needed to be replaced recently, towards the end of the week before last. Fortunately, my car is still under warranty - so it was just a case of calling and booking it in to have the bulb replaced - but whilst my headlight wasn't working I made sure that I wasn't on the roads after sunset - apart from it being against the law to drive without both headlights working - I also know it makes me less visible to other drivers too, so I was being considerate, right? Nothing annoys me so when drivers blind you, whilst they drive with their main beams on to compensate for one of their lights not working - or worse still, if they don't even know they have their brights on, that is being inconsiderate in my opinion.
Perhaps it's because I was involved in a car accident myself - luckily I wasn't killed but I was injured severely enough - and that has made me ever aware of everything around me but that still doesn't help when you have people who don't use their indicators correctly (if at all) - that's inconsiderate. I indicate my every intention, even if I am reversing out of a parking bay - that's considerate, right? Why people don't use their indicators correctly is beyond me..
Or how to treat a four way stop, even a traffic circle - the list is endless, really.
I admit that my driving skills may lack in certain areas but I consciously attempt to drive the best I can every time I climb behind the wheel of my car - not only for myself, or if I have a passenger or two but for all people I encounter on the road; these include fellow drivers, their passengers and pedestrians too.
Can you say the same? If not, we run the risk of even more tragedies like this taking place on our roads.
Until next time,