Once again the country has been rocked by the tragic loss of multiple lives in accidents involving a bus and a heavy truck. And again the public and official outcry fails to address the most logical solution to the problem.
In the most recent case, which is probably known to all readers, an articulated vehicle apparently suffered brake failure on the notorious Fields Hill on the approach to Pinetown. 27 people lost their lives and many more were injured.
A week earlier 10 maidens returning from an Annual Reed Dance ceremony were killed in a bus accident near eShowe in KZN.
The first public response to the Pinetown accident has been to renew the call for a ban on Heavy vehicles on the Fields Hill. Whilst this would no doubt reduced the death and accident rate in this area it may only serve to transfer the problem elsewhere.
Why do I say this?
Our road accident problem lies with our drivers and their qualification to handle what are unquestionably machines of mass destruction.
Let me give this analogy. South Africa’s gun licencing laws are onerous – the reason being that the public have to be safeguarded against inappropriate and incompetent people having access to a means of killing.
Most commendable. To ensure public safety, applicants must undergo a competency examination AND provide references to show that the applicant has not shown any character traits which may make them dangerous if put in control of a device which has the potential to kill. Automatic weapons are banned from public ownership due to their ability to kill a large number of people in an instant (see below).
Why then do we not have psychological profiling for Bus and Heavy truck drivers together with more stringent competency tests?
The driver of the offending vehicle in the Pinetown accident was only 23 years old and it is believed that he did not stop at the mandatory halt at the top of fields Hill to engage low gear! On reaching the bottom of the hill apparently without brakes he chose the off ramp to a busy intersection rather than remaining on the Highway.
In a bus accident in Mpumalanga last year a number of workers were killed when the driver conveying them chose to race a train to a level crossing and lost the race.
The common denominator in most such accidents is recklessness.
My suggestion is as follows; Any person applying for a learners certificate to learn to drive a bus or a heavy vehicle should be subjected to a psychological profiling test to determine their natural level of risk avoidance. Persons with a daring or reckless nature should be denied the right to apply for such a category of licence.
Bus drivers or heavy vehicle drivers should have completed 5 years driving a lower category of vehicle without offences and be at least 25 years of age before qualifying for these categories of licence. Anyone with convictions for substance abuse should be denied.
Extreme and/or unfair? Perhaps – but our death rate as a result of truck and bus accidents must be one of the highest in the world. The time for drastic corrective measures is long overdue.
Gun Owner Background Checks
An applicant for a firearm licence in South Africa must pass background checks which consider criminal, mental, medical, domestic violence, addiction, employment, and previous firearm licence records.
Firearm Safety Training
In South Africa, an understanding of firearm safety and the law, tested in a theoretical and/or practical training course is required for a firearm licence.