Surviving Our Hellish Highways

Surviving Our Hellish Highways

While driving to the office one morning, I was rather taken aback by the number of cars ambling onto the N3 highway at speeds as low as 60km/h. The thing is, feeding onto a busy highway, where even trucks and buses are, at the very least, doing about 80km/h, any vehicles entering the highway should try and match the speed of those in the slow lane.

However, more often than not, I find fellow motorists in a predicament where they end up driving in the emergency lane because their entry speed onto the highway was too slow. The thing is, there are no speed markings for on-ramps, where perhaps a certain speed could be recommended every 50m for instance, so that by the time you get to the highway, you are on a par with vehicles already travelling that piece of tarmac.

It is a logical approach in my books, that would assist drivers grappling with the concept of on-ramps. In my view, the name on-ramp perhaps does not quite resound like, say, speed-ramp. The latter easily etches on one’s mind as ramping up to a certain speed is, for a lack of a better word, essentially what an on-ramp is.

That aside, there is yet another bugbear that needs to be addressed when it comes to the conduct of roadblocks by the various metro police departments. Choosing on-ramps and off-ramps to check for the roadworthiness of vehicles sounds like a logical thing to do, but not during peak-hour traffic. For authorities to stop vehicles right at the entry of an off-ramp is really a recipe for disaster. Expecting a vehicle, which could be travelling at a minimum of, say, 100km/h to suddenly stop within 30m of leaving the highway has a cascading effect on impending vehicles.

We have seen this more often than not when drivers are distracted, whether it be fiddling with a cellphone or something to that effect, and suddenly they realise that the traffic ahead is slowing down rapidly. Panic ensues and slamming the brakes usually catches other drivers unawares and bumper bashings occur. This means the flow of traffic is interrupted, all in the name of checking the roadworthiness of vehicles.

Don’t get me wrong — vehicles that are not fit to be on the road have no place being there, but conducting spot checks by the authorities should be done using reasonable caution. It is a similar thing when authorities at times stop vehicles right at the end of an on-ramp. While slowing down here is perhaps not as hazardous as slowing down from the national speed limit as in the instance of off-ramps, it is trying to accelerate yet again to feed onto the highway a stone’s throw from where you were stopped that irks.

I am aware that traffic authorities thrive on the element of surprise, as some drivers often pull illegal and dangerous moves as soon as they spot a roadblock. The thing is, having roadblocks on either on- or off-ramps needs to be orchestrated in such a manner that motorists are made well aware in time, using clear markings indicating a roadblock ahead. Stumbling upon an official around a bend waving you down is not ideal.

However, should it be indicated that there are traffic officials ahead, then motorists would adapt their speed to tread safely through checks. While the emphasis should always be on road safety, I am of the opinion that there are some grey areas — such as roadblocks on the respective ramps — that need to be addressed. Road safety remains everyone’s responsibility and those who have the authority to enforce it should, in fact, should do so in a manner that makes the process as safe and conducive for road users as possible.

Lerato Matebese