Travelling back to Durban from a most enjoyable day of Historic car racing at Zwartkops Race Track I received, courtesy of Lanseria Airport, a copy of the Sunday Times containing the tragic story of the death of 23 farm workers killed in an “accident” at rail crossing.
According to reports, the driver of the truck carrying the workers failed to stop at the crossing. The resulting “horrific accident scene which shocked even seasoned emergency services personnel, led to immediate calls for an investigation into how farm workers are transported”
The Acting Transport minister, Mr Gigaba, is reported to have said “the farmer and the truck owner should be charged for transporting workers in a mode of transport that was only “suitable” to carry two passengers” Was the mode of transport the reason for these unnecessary deaths?
The minister’s statement ignores the stark fact that, daily, thousands of South Africans are driven by, at best incompetent, at worst, criminally insane drivers in vehicles which are (usually) fully licensed to carry 14 or more passengers. If Mr Gigaba truly believes that the outcome of this incident would have been any different had the vehicle concerned been licensed to carry 24 passengers, then I would suggest that he, and 23 of his colleagues, place themselves in a suitably licensed passenger vehicle to see if they would fare any better when struck by a speeding train!
Perhaps Mr Gigaba should move, ASAP, to a ministry where his obvious lack of a grasp of physics would be less of a hindrance to him. What is urgently needed is a Transport minister with the guts to immediately legislate that any person wishing to be licensed to drive a passenger or cargo carrying vehicle, be required to undergo Psychometric testing.
Anyone with aggressive or reckless tendencies should be barred from being granted the necessary permit. In this way I believe we could achieve a significant reduction in our accident rate. The downside is that a significant percentage of commuters will no longer reach their destination due to the resulting disqualification of many existing drivers. The continuing failure of our road traffic authorities to address the real issues head on will result in South Africa’s road death toll continuing at a frighteningly and unnecessarily high rate.
The tragedy in this case (and many other accidents) is that an obviously unsuitable /incompetent driver was allowed to gain control of the lives of their passengers. The solution is to ensure that legislation is enacted and is enforced to prevent such drivers from being licensed in future.
We owe this to all SA road users.