Taking its Toll
As many people welcome the return to the norm of everyday life after the festive season I have two very taxing issues that I need to get off my chest. The first is the annual death toll on our roads over the end of year holiday period and the other is the pending e-tolling of Gauteng’s roads.
It is not the first time that I mention in this column that I support, and will continue to support, any road safety effort that sets out to prevent serious injuries. However, it is very sad to see how the responsible entities, be it municipalities, big cities or provinces struggle to tackle this important issue. By now many experts have analysed the record numbers of people killed, or maimed and have drawn conclusions of the causes, and made suggestions for different interventions to prevent the carnage on our roads. Road Traffic Management Corporation spokesperson, Ashref Ismail, told IOL that most accidents were caused by reckless driving, dangerous overtaking, speeding and drunk driving. It is tragic that so many people end up severely injured or dead after every holiday season. This can be avoided!
As someone who has survived a horrific crash 12 years ago, I have done quite a bit of reflecting and even contemplated corrective measures to this annual slaughter. The most sensible solution to the problem is the provision of a reliable, safe, fast and efficient accessible public transport system. Air travel is very expensive but we do have an aging railway system that could be upgraded at a reasonable cost. At the end of last month have I marvelled at media reports of the launch of another high speed train service in China and I could not help but to imagine something along the same lines for South Africa. Not only does it make more financial sense than travelling by road, but it will connect the rural areas to the cities, and it could be “cleaner and greener” if renewable energy is used. I know a more knowledgeable approach is needed to determine the benefits, but I’d feel much safer on a train than on our roads.
Speaking of our roads, Qasa, together with several other organisations, is currently appealing the governments’ decision to continue with e-tolling of Gautengs’ freeways. The opposition to electronic tolling is growing and it is not aimed at the government, but directed at the principle that those who uses the road should pay for it. If this process is allowed in one province, then very soon the rest of the country will follow. There are other more equitable methods of paying for services. These funds should be used to provide citizens with services like decent roads.
If we allow e-tolling to go ahead, then most companies will expect the consumers to carry the burden of this extra cost. We are already struggling with high fuel costs and the ever increasing food and electricity prices. Not only people in the cities, but everyone will bear the cost of e-tolls. We need to support the fight against this steamrolling of decisions from our democratic government. We are not only going to be expected to be paying for the road infrastructure, but for the process of collecting the money as well. We need a good strategic combined effort from every member of society to stand up for the cause, or e-toll will go ahead, whether we like it or not!