A blog covering life and happenings in Cape Town

Friday, November 26, 2004

The Hell Run between Laingsburg and Beaufort West

Cape Town traffic authorities are gearing up for the holiday season with their arrive alive campaign.

Certain sections of road are particularly dangerous and the authorities are monitoring them over the course of the Christmas holiday season.

The stretch of road between Beaufort West and Laingsburg on the N1 has become known as the road of death as there are always fatal accidents taking place along it.

The problem is that this stretch of road is reached after about eight hours of driving from Johannesburg and four from Cape Town.

By the time motorists reach this point they are starting to get tired.

The distance between the two towns further exacerbates the problem as it is about 220 kilometres long and is dead straight for most of the time.

There is absolutely nothing to keep the driver alert and many times especially at night drivers nod off.

Of course when drivers fall asleep anything can happen and usually does with fatal consequences.

A visit to the hospital at Laingsburg brought home to me how bad the reputation of that stretch of road really is.

Smaller hospitals normally have one or two stretcher trolleys waiting in casualty.

Here there were four or five and a casualty ward with five beds all set up and ready for emergency work.

Very scary for a hospital in the middle of nowhere.

Having visited a casualty ward where there were accident victims being treated I could just imagine what the ward would be like in an emergency.

The N1 being the main highway between Cape Town and Johannesburg carries many large vehicles.

Sitting in a restaurant near the entrance to Laingsburg I counted the trucks entering and leaving Laingsburg.

The numbers were astronomical. Ten or twelve in as many minutes.

That means that the road up ahead has a convoy of trucks on it.

Most of them travelling at speeds much lower than the average car can travel.

Which driver on a long distance trip is going to slow down and sit behind a truck for any length of time without taking a chance to overtake.

It's when there is a buildup of cars behind a truck that the real problems begin.

Some driver, a couple of cars back will lose his patience, and then attempt to pass a number of cars and a truck in one go, sometimes on a blind rise or over a solid white line.

This is when the accidents happen as suddenly there is an oncoming vehicle bearing down on the overtaking vehicle and nowhere for it to go.

It either forces the oncoming car off the road or there is a head on collision which involves many more than just the one vehicle.

What a waste of lives when this happens.

Is there a solution to this traffic problem?

Our authorities seem to think that it's the speed that kills.

Yes! maybe it does.

Speed in itself however is not dangerous but when there are slower vehicles on the road forcing motorists to slow down then accidents happen.

Authorities are trying to rectify the problem by setting up speed traps and permanent cameras in remote areas.

In my opinion this is a money making exercise and not a road safety exercise.

The real solution is to take slower vehicles off the roads during peak periods and then to monitor the speeds of the other vehicles using the roads by use of the cameras.

That way they will be looking after road safety and also preventing build ups behind slower vehicles causing frustration to the already tired driver.

Your comments will be appreciated.

Geoff Fairman

ps. Turtle Essays ezine no 113 featuring many of Cape Town's attractions will be online shortly. Here is the link.

Cape Town Attractions


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