Grim start to holidays as 34 die on Western Cape roads
By Okuhle Hlati
Driver fatigue, speeding and inebriated pedestrians walking in the road are among factors that contributed to a grim start for the festive season, with 34 people, including eight children, killed on Western Cape roads at the weekend.
Between Friday and Monday morning provincial authorities said they had arrested 35 drunk drivers and others on charges including reckless and negligent driving. The eight children were aged three to 17.
Provincial traffic chief Kenny Africa said investigations were under way into a minibus accident that claimed the lives of 12 people on the N1 near Touws River, about 182km outside Cape Town.
The vehicle was on its way to Cape Town carrying 22 passengers when the driver, who was also killed, lost control before the vehicle overturned. Ten others were injured.
On Monday morning five people died in separate incidents.
“Two taxis collided head-on, 25km outside Beaufort West on the road to Aberdeen,” Africa said.
Two people died on the scene, and a driver and passenger later succumbed to their injuries in hospital.
Also at 4.30am on Monday on the N1 Leeu Gamka a taxi crash left a 14-year-old dead, Africa added.
Authorities have a no-nonsense approach toward those who still don’t respect the rules of the road, Africa said, following footage that emerged of a taxi driver overtaking a string of vehicles in the face of oncoming traffic on the N1, near Touws River.
A motorist captured the scene and reported the driver who was later arrested.
“The driver kept on driving against the traffic flow by flashing his lights at the oncoming vehicles as if the road belonged to him. He was arrested by a provincial traffic official, taken to the police station in Touws River and will appear in court soon.
“We simply have a no-nonsense approach when it comes to reckless and negligent driving, and our message to the taxi drivers out there is, if you’re not going to behave on our roads, we will arrest you,” Africa said.
The Western Province Blood Transfusion Service made an urgent appeal for blood donors as it currently only has enough blood for two days.
“Our call for donor blood is daily, however the blood service will be entering one of its most difficult collection periods,” spokesperson Michelle Vermeulen said.
“We are entering the festive season where blood stocks levels in the Western Cape tend to decline.
“We would therefore like to appeal to all holidaymakers and all our regular donors to find a blood donation drive near your holiday destination.
“We also urge motorists to practise extra caution on the roads to help reduce road fatalities and injuries,” Vermeulen added.
Mayco member for safety and security JP Smith joined traffic officials in Bellville on the annual roadworthy check campaign, Operation Exodus, on Friday.
The campaign is rolled out to public transport interchange stations including Joe Gqabi, Bellville and Cape Town station to ensure long-distance public transport vehicles are roadworthy.
The campaign aimed to ensure an estimated 5000 people, expected to travel through the province, reached their holiday destinations safely.
In Bellville, about 65 vehicles were tested.
In other efforts to ensure road users were safe, several integrated roadblocks and Vehicle Check Points (VCPs) were held in Leeu Gamka, R43 Ceres, Villiersdorp, Swellendam and Grabouw.
This was part of the police Western Cape Safer Festive Season plan launched on Tuesday by Police Minister Bheki Cele, National Police Commissioner Khehla John Sitole and Provincial Commissioner Khombinkosi Jula. –Cape Times