EDITORIAL COMMENT: Rein in reckless drivers

Five people died on the spot while two others were critically injured when a Mitsubishi Lancer collided head-on with a VW Bora near Banket along the Harare-Chirundu Highway yesterday.— (Picture by Isdore Guvamombe)

File Pic

Anyone unfortunate enough to be on Harare’s roads on Thursday night, the start of the Easter holiday, could hardly have missed noticing that some drivers thought the best way to commemorate a solemn religious holiday was to get blind drunk, drive fast, totally ignore the Highway Code and cause an accident.

It was impossible to drive more than 10km without seeing an accident or at least being passed by an ambulance on its way to an accident.

And a very short drive would have produced the reasons for these accidents. While many drivers were driving sensibly and trying to get home in one piece, a significant minority followed a different practice.

Some were speeding, weaving their way through traffic to win a tiny advantage totally dissipated at the next red traffic light. Some thought the best way to cope with a traffic jam was to overtake on the wrong side of the road and were not dissuaded from such a course even when it became obvious that the cause of the jam was a bad accident; they just swept past the ambulances scattering those trying to direct traffic.

Still others regarded Stop signs and red lights as suggestions, rather than legal commands.

And this was while driving in an urban area, where the time saved by committing a driving crime can be measured in seconds.

Anyone with a Grade 7 mathematics certificate can easily work this out. Driving 10km at 50km/h takes 12 minutes, excluding the time waiting at traffic lights. Driving the same distance at 60km/h takes 10 minutes, and at 70km/h it takes 8 minutes and 35 seconds.

We wonder what those speeding or weaving dangerously or overtaking in the face of oncoming traffic were planning on doing in the minute or two they would save.

And even more astonishing, we wonder why they think the saving of a minute is worth the risk of killing someone else. Impatience rather than any rational explanation appears to be the cause of so many urban accidents.

Even on long journeys the time saved by speeding, breaking traffic rules and being discourteous hardly seems worthwhile. Averaging 100km/h the trip from Harare to Bulawayo takes 4h 36min. That average speed implies that the limit is not broken and that the driver is patient when delayed by heavy traffic.

Driving at an average of 120km/h, which means some serious speeding at times as well as unsafe overtaking, the journey takes 46 minutes less.

Again we wonder what were the speeding drivers planning on doing in that time.

Traffic flows smoother and better when everyone follows the rules of the road, instead of taking stupid risks and blocking safer drivers.

We all need to be patient, start our journeys earlier if we want to be somewhere earlier and, regrettably, keep our eyes open for the idiots who drive so contemptuously.

The police cannot be everywhere, and cannot see more than a tiny fraction of illegal driving. This is a pity. But just because others break the laws there is no reason why the rest of us should and perhaps in the end, the bad drivers will be shamed into following the law.