All mouth and no trousers?

Big words from the Western Cape Transport MEC Robin Carlisle this week on two new plans to improve road safety in the Province. Firstly, he outlined plans to institute huge fines for parents who do not belt their children in when they are in the car. And those driving on the roads of Cape Town will note that this is a very common issue. Very common.

Currently, SA law only made provision for fines of about R200 for failing to use seatbelts, Carlisle said – and children were not differentiated from adults.
He said the provincial government wanted this increased to between R4 000 and R6 000 per child, which was in line with countries such as Britain, the US and Australia.

This is, without doubt, a good idea.
The statistics stated within that report are horrendous and include (but are not limited to):

  • 85% of parents do not strap their children in.
  • Road accidents remain the top non-natural killer of children in the country.
  • Between 200 and 300 children treated for trauma at the Red Cross hospital every year, between 70 and 90 percent had been injured in car crashes.
  • About 8 000 children die each year on the roads.
  • About 89 percent of those taken to the hospital for treatment had not been wearing seatbelts at the time of the crashes.

So of course, I’m fully in support of any steps taken to reduced these injuries and fatalities. Who wouldn’t be? Reinforcing the laws around kids and seatbelts is a good idea and upping the fines for those who don’t comply is a no-brainer.

The trouble is that it’s illegal to talk on one’s cellphone while driving, to speed and, in fact, to not wear a seatbelt yourself. It’s illegal to drive while under the influence of alcohol. But people still do it. And they do it because they can – and do – get away with it.
Remember this?

The spokesman for Cape Town Traffic Services, Kevin Jacobs, said 4 184 drivers in six months had been fined for the unlawful use of a cellphone while driving.

From which I calculated this?

4,200 in 6 months. That’s 700 a month. Or 24 a day. 1 an hour.
In a city with 3,000,000+ inhabitants. It’s a drop in the ocean.

So the laws are there, but the fact that they’re just not enforced means that the driving public feel that they don’t have to obey them. As Mrs El Presidenté said of the “Buckle up your kids, or pay” article, on Facebook:

Nice idea, but exactly how are they going to police it?

And I agree: this is pretty much worthless without backup. However, I’m also aware that the first step is to at least have decent laws to enforce. At the moment, we don’t even really have that. So this is a move in the right direction.

But perhaps a better way of making the roads a safer place to be is to change driver attitude and raise awareness of the effects of poor or illegal driving practices. And Robin Carlisle has made plans here too, with the new Crash Witness website, featuring genuine CCTV footage of accidents on the Province’s highways.

Described as:

Not for sensitive viewers /Ayilungiselelwanga abaButhathaba / Nie vie sensitiewe kyker nie

it is obviously designed to encourage drivers into thinking before they engage in dangerous driving. When I visited the site yesterday and again this morning, the videos refused to play – which merely served to encourage a lot of frustration here Chez 6000. I had to have a couple a Red Bulls to calm myself down before hitting the M3 into town.

I very much doubt that it will be possible to measure the results that Crash Witness may/will have in the Western Cape. I presume that beneficial effects from this type of thing have been shown elsewhere. But again – anything which improves the safety of our roads has got to be a step in the right direction.

What do you think? Do you buckle your kids up when you are driving? If not, why not?
Do you use your cellphone at the wheel? If so, why? What would make you stop?

9 Comments | Tagged , , , , | Posted in annoying people, economic issues, in the news, learning curve, politics, positive thoughts, this is south africa

Monbiot goes Nuclear

George Monbiot has a moment of clarity:

It’s a devastating admission to have to make, especially during the climate talks in Durban. But there would be no point in writing this column if I were not prepared to confront harsh truths. This year, the environmental movement to which I belong has done more harm to the planet’s living systems than climate change deniers have ever achieved.

As a result of shutting down its nuclear programme in response to green demands, Germany will produce an extra 300m tonnes of carbon dioxide between now and 2020. That’s almost as much as all the European savings resulting from the energy efficiency directive. Other countries are now heading the same way. These decisions are the result of an almost medievel misrepresentation of science and technology. For while the greens are right about most things, our views on nuclear power have been shaped by weapons-grade woo.

We may have mentioned the Germany faux pas here and here.

What follows Monbiot’s terrible admission is generally a plea to his fellow greenies to look again at nuclear technology, specifically a GEH proposal to build an Integral Fast Reactor at Sellafield in the UK, capable of using the waste radioactive material from other nuclear plants. The alternative plans for the waste – as described by George, at least – do seem far less palatable.

All in all it’s an interesting read and, if one is being rational, then supporting GEH’s plan seems like a no-brainer:

So we environmentalists have a choice. We can’t wish the waste away. Either it is stored and then buried. Or it is turned into mox fuels. Or it is used to power IFRs. The decision is being made at the moment, and we should determine where we stand.
I suggest we take the radical step of using science, not superstition, as our guide.

That last line is the kicker though, and probably explains why George’s is likely be the only green voice calling for a new reactor in Cumbria. Sad, but true.

A fully referenced version of this column is available here.

7 Comments | Tagged , , , | Posted in annoying people, in the news, no electricity

“Deathstar”

“Deathstar” – that’s the title of the latest blog post on longexposure.net (previously featured on 6000 miles… here). In this episode, our hero ventures deep into the heart of the enemy base (is this right? – Ed.) and finds himself in a space not unlike the one in which Luke Skywalker fought Darth Vader in whatever Star Wars film that was that they fought in.

Much as that fight made for thrilling viewing, so does the photography here, including this absolute gem which for me invokes some of that lightsaber action:

We’re not actually told what sort of building this is, only that:

Descending the access shaft and opening the door to the inner chamber here … is a sobering thing. There’s a subtlety to its shape that suggests a silent eruption of power; to stand beneath is to stare at a torus of cascading alien concrete.

One can only hope that they have sufficiently protected the reactor core this time around…

2 Comments | Tagged , , , , | Posted in this is south africa

Claremont Visible Policing

I’ve been wanting to do this one for ages…

“Claremont Visible Policing”

“Claremont Invisible Policing”

Hahahahahahaha! (sorry)

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Hoax emails hurt

…as I’ve said before.

I don’t expect that anyone who reads my blog forwards this sort of junk on anyway – you’re all far too intelligent, right? (right?!?).
Thus, I really don’t expect this to make much of an impact in the greater scheme of things, but the trouble is that some people do believe all that they read on the internet. And if Maureen from church sent them an email saying that the moon was going to fall onto Cape Town next Wednesday, they’d probably save time by not making any plans for the rest of that that week.

I am, of course, talking about bananas, or more specifically about the bananas email that did the rounds in SA last week. It first originated in the USA in 1999, and – contrary to what is stated therein – bananas from KZN are not infected with the killer flesh-eating bug that kills and eats flesh.
Streptococcus pyogenes has no interest in bananas. Not enough protein, see?

It wants you.

But please don’t have sleepless nights. You’ll be fine.

Unless it gets you. In which case, you’ll die. Horribly.

Seriously though – as I linked at the top – we’ve been here before, but that was just one man who suffered annoyance and inconvenience thanks to an email attributed to him. Amazingly, bewilderingly, this is having a huge negative effect on banana sales in Mozambique:

Sales of bananas in Maputo have plummeted following the circulation of malicious e-mails and mobile phone text messages claiming that South African bananas are infected with a lethal bacteria.
The bananas sold in Maputo are grown in Mozambique, not South Africa indeed, Mozambique exports bananas to South Africa. But this has made no difference to panic-stricken consumers who are avoiding the fruit altogether.

Now, I’m no expert in the economics of fruit farming in Southern African states, but I’d wager that there isn’t a whole lot of money readily available to those on the ground (or in the tree?) of the banana growing business generally. And because of this, there’s likely to be even less now. This isn’t harmless fun. It’s affecting real people. Really.

Of course, you’re reading this high-brow blog. You are sensible, rational, informed. But when was the last time you checked on your mother-in-law or any other elderly or BlackBerry-using relative, hmm?
Why not do the decent thing and send them a link to this post and make the world of a Mozambican banana farmer and his family just a little bit better this December?

1 Comment | Tagged , , | Posted in annoying people, in the news, learning curve, that's a bit mad, this is south africa
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