Maybe there are not so many of us fitting the label “rational”
Studies to determine the economic impact of road accidents, have been done for over a hundred years. One would imagine, this phenomenon only started having an impact on people’s lives with the advent of the motorised automobile, but in fact, as early as the the 1860s, the British government conducted a survey to calculate the costs associated with wagon and cart accidents. And there were many, as attested to in a book on the dawn of the modern traffic era, which I read as a student.
Automobile accidents are a rather bland name for a very nasty occurrence. Serious accidents are highly disruptive, they kill and maim people, they lead to indescribable suffering at the scene of the accident, and in our country, their impact is often felt for many years after the event.
Those that survive usually carry the scars for life, not to mention the immense cost associated with convalescence after an accident. The scars to the soul never really heal.
Having witnessed some horrific accidents in my lifetime, I have to state that nobody walks away from an accident scene where one had to help find the pieces of people in the grass and from the bushes, without it having a significant psychological effect on the observer. With the keen help of the modern newspaper, I also would have thought the public at large must have an inkling of the horror of a serious accident. Graphic pictures of mangled vehicles, and sometimes mangled bodies, are a front page feature too often for anybody not to be aware of the destruction that happens during a collision.
Since I took it that every rational Namibian must be fully aware of the suffering caused by accidents, it bowls me over every time (every day) when I witness the imbecilic behaviour of those sharing the road with me. It is as if there is a small percentage of drivers, probably around 5% or less, that one cannot classify as rational by any stretch of the definition.
These people do not know that a continuous white line on a black surface is the visual expression of an ordinance. I suspect that they do not know the meaning of the word “ordinance” and that a white line is only a rough indication of how far the vehicle’s wheels, have crossed it. If a small portion of drivers do not understand the importance of a traffic rule, then traffic safety for a much bigger portion of law-abiding drivers, is totally compromised.
It beats me what one must do to make the kamikaze drivers realise a traffic rule in particular, and traffic regulations in general, are just as much part of the codex, as any other Namibian law. It is futile to talk about Rule of Law if the ordinary citizen does not even realise it starts, not in the courts, but in the way he drives his car.
We have spent many millions of dollars on traffic safety campaigns. Private sector companies are often eager to step to the plate and assist the authorities with money and manhours. And through institutions like the Motor Vehicle Accident Fund, we have spent many millions of dollars more on paying for the damage caused during and after the accident. I am beginning to suspect a very large part of this money has been wasted.
I have disturbing news for all other road users. Road carnage is a feature of developing societies and it is going to stay for us until we have developed into a more sophisticated, civilised bunch. As long as there are too many people who, while learning to drive, are not taught the elementary aspects of road usage and safety, then we will continue to read every week of another horrific accident.
I still believe it has much to do with law enforcement, but I also believe behaviour plays a crucial role. When a prospective driver has to take a learners test orally because he cannot read, what snowball’s hope is there that he will appreciate road signs (which include road markings.) And when an instructor takes a learner driver on a highway, which is explicitly forbidden, what understanding will that driver, later when he is qualified, have for traffic rules.
My biggest weekly entertainment happens every Friday afternoon. Where I turn onto the double-lane freeway running to Brakwater, there are many signs prohibiting stopping along the offramp. But this also happens to be a very busy pick-up point despite inspectors from the Nampol traffic division driving past.
If you are a careful driver and you have a regard for the law and for safety, brace yourself. Traffic accidents will continue to happen with painful regularity. There are simply too many retards on the road.