Whose Fault Is It Anyway?

Part – indeed much – of my journey home from work features the M5 and much of that journey is usually rather slow. It gives me a chance to have a look around at the fetid industrial heartland of Cape Town, before I head down into the leafier suburbs further south.

As I’ve mentioned once or twice before, Cape Town (and South African) drivers in general seem incapable of obeying the rules of the road, but two incidents that I’ve spotted over the past couple of days have left me intrigued from a legal point of view.

The first involved a vehicle from the Provincial Motor Transport fleet. The guy driving it was talking on his cellphone and so he wasn’t paying a huge amount of attention to his driving. Thus, he veered into the yellow lane at the side of the freeway, where he almost hit a cyclist. Whose fault would that have been? You might think that it’s a bit of a no-brainer: driver on cellphone, not paying attention, veers, hits cyclist. Blame driver.
But of course, the cyclist shouldn’t have been there anyway, since they aren’t permitted to be on freeways (or to ride 2 abreast or to go through red lights or to go the wrong way down one way streets or do all the other illegal things that cyclists do). So maybe the driver could have argued that the it should have been safe for him to veer to the left without fear of squashing anyone.

The second is more clear cut. A van, delivering gas (gas go boom boom if van crashes), travelling in the right hand lane, spots a phat traffic jam ahead and decides he wants nothing to do with it. Helpfully, there’s a junction right there, so he can nip off the freeway and avoid the delay. There are just two things stopping him from carrying out this manoeuvre: there’s a solid white line and a lane of traffic to… no… wait… there’s apparently nothing stopping him from carrying out this manoeuvre as he lurches violently to the left and almost hits a Renault Scenic. Whose fault would that have been? Well, his, obviously.
Except for the fact that the woman driving said Scenic could have done a whole lot more to avoid the potential accident if she hadn’t been smoking a fag with one hand, doing her make-up with the other and being on the phone with the third. Her value as a witness would have been compromised by her extensive head injuries suffered in the accident as she wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.
But then the gas go boom boom would have killed us all anyway.

I spot a lot, but then, it’s a long, slow journey and there’s a lot to spot. But then I followed a Ghost Squad (unmarked traffic police) car down the M5 the other evening and was amazed at what he apparently didn’t spot. In the 3.5kms that I was right behind him, I counted 27 different offences by various motorists. No seatbelts, unrestrained kids, drivers using cellphones, crossing solid white lines, fag butts out of windows, a couple of cyclists etc etc.

He apparently saw nothing. Neither did the Ghost Squad motorbike that passed us both by Kromboom Road.

With law enforcement like that, it’s no wonder that drivers believe that they can break the law with impunity, and it’s no wonder that South Africa’s road death statistics are so horrific.