Bad driver checklist

Cape Town drivers are, apparently, terrible. And apparently Cape Town drivers aren’t just terrible, they’re more terrible than drivers in other parts of South Africa. I might well be persuaded to go along with this sweeping generalisation, but then I don’t do a huge amount of driving elsewhere in South Africa, so I don’t really have a lot to compare them with.

As with all things that are good and/or bad, there are degrees of goodity or baditude. The best way to find out whether someone is a terrible driver is probably just to observe them driving terribly, but if you don’t have time for that – or if you prefer to be forewarned – then I have noted that there are a few telltale signs that should alert you that a Cape Town driver is going to be particularly terrible.

Here is a list of those signs. It’s not in any particular order. The risk is cumulative, so the more of these boxes that any driver ticks, the greater the danger to those around them.

1. The vehicle has a CF number plate. It used to be that you had to be wary of CY number plates (and with good reason), but Kuils River is the new Bellville. In number plate terms, at least. I suppose the dodgy strip joints will soon follow.
As I’ve mentioned before, bad driving is evidently spreading slowly eastwards. Plettenberg Bay is going to be a disaster in about 2052. You’ve been warned.

2. The SSSS concern. As in, the vehicle is sporting a Southern Suburbs School Sticker. Specifically from a boys school. Like “Proud Rondebosch Family”, “Brothers In An Endless Chain” (that’s Wynberg Boys’ current sickeningly simpering ideology) or “SACS Pride”.
These stickers are worn with honour, but honour does not come for free. It comes at the hefty price of a 50% decrease in your (possibly already meagre) driving ability.

3. Hondas. (Had One Never Did Again; History Of No Dramatic Acceleration).
Yes, BMW and Audi drivers drive arrogantly, dangerously and stupidly fast, but that’s to be expected, because their drivers are cocks. Honda drivers (especially those driving the Jazz), drive obliviously, and that’s actually far more terrifying. It’s almost as if they don’t recognise that there’s likely to be any other road users out there.
Take your horrid little Brio out to the middle of the Karoo and you might be right. Drive it down Sea Point Main Road on a Saturday morning and – I assure you – you’ll be wrong (to the detriment of all around you).

4. GPS in the middle of the windscreen. Do people in other cities really do this too? Yes, you need to know where you’re going (although we have the Mountain for that), and yes, you need us all to see that you have a GPS, but putting it directly in your field of view when you are (allegedly) in control of 1000+kgs of motor vehicle isn’t the best idea you’ve ever had. It’s like driving with one eye closed (I’d presume, anyway), and that makes the road infinitely more dangerous for those unfortunate enough to be around you.

5. Any 4 wheel drive Toyota. Do you drive a Run-X or a Yaris? If so, you pose no additional risk to anyone else on the road. Are you in a Land Cruiser? Yes? Well, you’re a massive liability.
Sorry to do this, but the major culprits in (already dangerous) Land Cruisers have two add-on risk factors: i) 30- and 40-something year old mothers, and ii) those pisspoor stick figure family things on the back windscreen.
Don’t misunderstand me here: 30- and 40-something year old mothers in any other vehicle are fine, and stick figure family things on the back windscreen are… well… they’re utterly dismal. But alone (or even as a pair) these factors don’t come along with any additional deterioration in driving prowess. Stick either of them – or, heavens preserve us, both – onto or into a big Chelsea Tractor though, and you increase the danger to those around you to frankly near incomprehensible levels.

6. Golden Arrow Buses. In Durban, bus drivers have used their vehicles to block intersections as a form of protest. In Cape Town, they do it because there’s a vowel in the day. The only thing scarier than an errant driver racing through Observatory in a Honda Jazz is an errant driver racing through Observatory in a 15-tonne Golden Arrow Bus.
It used to be that taxi drivers were the public transport scourge of the roads. No longer. It’s not because the taxi drivers have got any better. They’re simply been overtaken (often literally and illegally) by a filthy, 12 metre long, 1980s accident waiting to happen.

7. Cyclists. Obviously not drivers per se, but disproportionately dangerous on the roads. We’ve been through the issues surrounding cyclists more than once, but it seems to make sense to warn you to steer well clear of them and their entirely predictable unpredictability. The only thing you can guarantee about them is that they’ll happily race through red traffic lights and then blame cars for everything. This is a great example of tarring everyone with the same brush: in actual fact, cyclists should just blame Hondas for everything.

8. Cars with a dreamcatcher hanging from the rear view mirror. Technically, individuals who have a dreamcatcher hanging from their rear view mirror don’t know actually what a rear view mirror is. They think it’s a dreamcatcher hanger. They have no idea that it has any other purpose. That’s one reason that they’re more risky to be around on the road. The second reason that individuals who possess dreamcatchers are dangerous is that they are usually hippies who are concentrating more on stuff like world peace and veganism rather than actually driving safely. For some reason, these people feel that they are allowed to appropriate First Nation culture with absolutely no penalty. Aside from the crippling inability to drive.

Did I miss anything?
Stay safe out there.
And please share for awareness.

Sincere signwriting

More great stuff from my favourite UK blogger, Brian Micklethwait, albeit while wearing his Samizdata trousers and hat.

Brian says:

That is a sign which I think I would have noticed even if I had not been noticing signs generally at all.

It’s as if its creator was, while creating it, thinking and feeling something rather unusual. He actually cared about people reading his sign and about people doing what he said. He really wanted to communicate something.

He thought about it. How can I word it, he said to himself, to make sure that people pay attention, refrain from swimming in these truly dangerous waters, in which, I know for a fact, in 1995, no fewer than seven – seven – people were drowned?
How can I get that across? Lives are at stake here. Before I die, I want to make the world a slightly better place. This is my chance.

You can see the scene in his office, in 1999 or whenever it was.
“I’m stuck,” said he.

Stuck? Relax, said his less committed colleagues. It’s only a sign. Nobody reads signs. They’re only there to avoid legal liability when some idiot does whatever it is.

“But I really want people to read it! What can I put?”

I like to think that at this point, a wise and experienced sign writer said: “Put your pen down, and tell me what you are trying to say? Say it it out loud.”

“Say it out loud?”


“Well, what I want to say is that during 1995 there were seven deaths in docklands waters due to people ignoring these signs! These waters are dangerous! No swimming!”

“Well, why don’t you put that?”


“Put what you just said. That’ll get their attention. Your sincerity will shine through.”

Seriously, there is a real problem with all these signs, not unlike the problem of too many laws. People just switch off. They screen them out. Call it: sign inflation. So many warnings add up to … no warning at all.

The narrative simplicity invokes Douglas Adams for me. Brilliant.
But that last line does make a very good point. Do we really need to be told that there is a danger of drowning in water? Of course there is and of course we don’t – or rather, we shouldn’t. But because someone decides that we do need that reminder along with many, many others, we find ourselves overloaded with information, to the point that we stop listening and we drown.

I would love to know whether the work of our sincere signwriter had any effect on the water-based fatalities in and around the Royal Victoria Dock. Perhaps sincere signwriting is actually the only way of saving lives, but even that would only work in the short-term before we become blasé to the statistics of 1995 and since.

Photo: Brian Micklethwait/Samizdata