This time of the year is called the "festive season" here in the good old R of SA. Well for many it becomes a season of tragedy and immense sadness due to the carnage on our roads at this time of the year.
Last Saturday the Italian Leprechaun and I went to fetch a friend from hospital in Pietermaritzburg. As we got on to the N3 highway heading south I knew this drive was going to be no picnic. The traffic was bumper to bumper on both the south bound lanes and and almost as bad on the north bound. There is no room for evasive action if someone should do something stupid in front of you.
At the small town of Mooi River (Pretty River) +- 30km south of this point in the photo below is the "Mooi toll plaza". Traffic south bound going through the toll was +- 6,000 an hour, not counting the heavy trucks which average 5,000 a day on this road. Heading north the count was +- 3000 an hour.
Looking south, from here the N3 stretches 200 km to the port city of Durban on the Indian ocean. At Durban the N3 crosses the N2 highway heading north and south just inland of the coast and all the seaside holiday resorts, the destination of all the inland holiday makers. People pay thousands of rands for a few days stay at these resorts, some never get there or if they get there some never get home.
I took this photo on Sunday morning and the traffic has reduced to a trickle. The day before was a totally different story, the south bound on ramp where we joined the flow is just around the corner on the left.
Looking north, the N3 stretches for more than 400 km to the city of Johannesburg, after that still further north to our capital city Pretoria, and the further north still for hundreds of kilometers further.
No one drives a small car any more, the bigger the better and it had better be a 4 X 4 SUV or you are a nobody. The speed limit on our main roads is 120 km and hour, about 70 mph, but few obey this rule. Most of the highway is under average speed camera coverage. The authorities collect millions, (maybe billions) of rands in traffic fine, never seems to change any-ones speeding.
In spite of cars being bumper to bumper on both lanes there are the weavers who look for the slightest gap and weave from left to right into these gaps as they pass others at excessive speeds. Even when you have no where for you to go, you will get some fool behind you flashing his head lights at you to get out of the way.
After collecting our friend at the hospital we took the N3 heading north. We were about 20 km north of Pietermaritzburg when the first ambulance passed us red light flashing and sirens howling then a police car, another ambulance. I lost count of the emergency vehicles that had passed.
About 30 km further we came to the scene of the accident on the south bound lanes, shattered vehicles scattered in all directions, bodies lying everywhere. One large SUV was lying on it's side with it's roof ripped off and the bodies of two children still strapped in the back seat. One amazing thing though is the fast reaction time by the emergency service in situations like this, (lots of practice I suppose). At this time of the year all emergency services are on high alert 24/7.
How did this happen? Well people are stupid, selfish and think they own the road. Hundreds die on our roads during the so called "festive season." During the June/July school holidays the results are the same.
At the moment the road authorities are adding a third lane, especially on steeper parts of the road, eventually the whole of the N3 highway will be a 6 lane highway, doubt it will make much difference though.
South Africa has one of the most stringent learner drive laws in the world. You have to been trained by a register'd and licensed driving school, then you get tested and get your learner drivers licence, more training by the driving school then tested for your drivers licence, fail one part of the test and you start from the beginning again. But once behind the wheel of their own car all this seems to be forgotten at once.
My father taught me to drive and told me that the most dangerous part of the car is the "nut" holding the steering wheel.
Will be travelling north about 600 km on this highway myself on the 2nd January, not looking forward to the trip.