Friday 3 November 2006

Enough is enough

No, for once I’m not talking about being treated with contempt by shops, restaurants, banks or supermarkets. In fact, this week, as far as I can recall, no service provider has disrespected me or indeed anyone I know.

No, this week, I’m planning to abuse my position as a columnist who talks about customer service to talk about something that seems entirely irrelevant.

Road safety.

Last week, as I was doing my daily duty, driving my kids into school along the road into Gaborone from Lobatse I was unlucky enough to come across the aftermath of a horrific car crash. It had clearly happened just a few minutes earlier as there was little hold-up and no emergency services. On the other side of the road was a Toyota Camry, on my side was a large ball of metal that I think, at one stage in it’s life, was a red Hyundai.

Surrounding the red wreck at the moment I passed was a group of men desperately trying to rip the doors off, presumably trying to get into the car to help the occupants.

Unlike some of the people passing by at the time I didn’t want to stick around. There was nothing I could have contributed other than getting in the way. As I passed the white car burst into flames and just another passer-by expressing morbid curiosity would not have helped in the slightest.

I found out later that in the red car were a Primary School teacher and two young children, all of them dead. The Camry was a Government vehicle and luckily the driver escaped with his life, if not his legs intact.

Now obviously I’m not going to comment on who might have been responsible but I am going to say one thing. Why do we put up with this?

This morning I saw two saloon cars going through a light 2-3 seconds after it went red but then, to my astonishment, a combi went through the same red light almost 10 seconds after it had turned red.

Yes, we’ve all seen this time and time again. Anyone who has spent any time on our roads will have seen such horrors and will be used to by now. The trouble is that we also get used to the causes of these tragedies. We get used to combis dashing through red lights. We get used to BX vehicles being driven by people who seem to be going out of their way to cause accidents.

So who should take action? Is it Government’s job? The Police? The President? Politicians? City Council? The Pope? The United Nations? No, it’s actually nothing to do with any of them. . It’s not the Police’s job to prevent us from driving badly, they are there either to prosecute us or pick up the pieces afterwards.

No, it’s nobody’s job but ours. Yes, you and me. Nothing at all will change until WE change our attitudes towards homicidal drivers.

So enough talking, what are WE, that’s all of us, going to DO about it? Are we content for our children to be mown down? Are we happy for our neighbours, foreign visitors, tourists to see us driving like we have a death wish? Most importantly are we truly happy with ourselves for allowing this to happen?

I’m not claiming to be beyond criticism myself of course. Public confession time. I have occasionally gone through a robot, a fraction of a second after it turned red. I’ve been caught speeding a few times and even more times when I wasn’t caught. Mea culpa. (I do SO like a little Latin on a Friday, don’t you? It’s great to speak a language no sane person, apart from lawyers, speaks any more, but I digress…).

I think we need a zero tolerance of this sort of behaviour. If we’re in a combi and it’s being driven by a lunatic I think we should force him to stop and demand our money back before getting out. Then write to City Council about him and tell them what happened. Same with taxis. Let’s do what I urge all consumers to do (see, it IS a consumer issue after all!). Vote with our wallets and purses.

Oh, and as for BX drivers… Take down their registration number and send it through to the Director of the Central Transport Organisation at Private Bag X048, Gaborone and let him know the registration number, the date and time of the incident and what you saw. But let’s be positive as well. Let’s start to celebrate the combi, taxi and BX drivers who drive responsibly. Surely they exist?

But most importantly let’s take action ourselves. If I benefit from being in a combi driving at 120kph in a 60kph zone because I got up late this morning then I am part of the problem.

So here’s a final challenge. Let’s all get up 5 minutes earlier each morning so the combi doesn’t have to rush. I think it’s a fair exchange. Every working person in the country sacrifices 5 minutes sleep. Maybe one child will live.

I think it’s a fair exchange.

This week’s stars!

  • The Good Samaritans who stopped at the scene of the accident and did their very best to save some lives. It’s not their fault there was nothing they could do.
  • Amigo at Pick N Pay at Molapo Crossing who insisted on getting a shopper a bargain.
  • Nancy at FNB Corporate switchboard for taking personal responsibility for finding a phone number in South Africa and phoning our reader back with it.

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