Reviews and opinion 21.1.2015 02:23 pm

It’s hardly rocket science

Howard Dembovsky, National Chairman of the non-profit Justice Project South Africa. Picture: Supplied

Howard Dembovsky, National Chairman of the non-profit Justice Project South Africa. Picture: Supplied

So, the festive season is now officially over and with it, as always, the focus on heightened and visible traffic policing, road safety awareness, etc. will be mothballed until Easter comes around.

You won’t be told about how many people have died since 5 January 2015 and “business as usual” will resume – mowing people down on our roads, while traffic cops hide in bushes and take happy snaps of speeding motorists, while doing little else to justify their existence.

Few people seem to realise or care that, while the festive season generally represents a time at which road carnage peaks, death and serious injury is a daily occurrence on our roads.Fewer yet think it will ever affect them.

After all, “it won’t happen to me” is a popular belief, more especially when one repeatedly gets away with defying the rules of the road and nothing untoward happens.

You can tell people “speed kills”, using a mobile phone while driving is extremely dangerous, overtaking on a solid line or not wearing your seatbelt is suicidal, etc. until you are blue in the face, but unfortunately, few are going to believe you – until it’s too late.

Appealing to people’s sense of “morality”, contrary to encouraging better behaviour, tends to get everyone’s backs up and breeds even worse behaviour. After all, “morality” is very much a subjective issue and no-one likes being lectured and treated like a child, more especially when it originates from someone whose opinion they don’t necessarily have much regard for.

So how do you alter people’s behaviour and make them more compliant with laws? In my view it’s not rocket science and as much as we like to say people should comply of their own volition, because “it’s the right thing to do”, we need to take cognisance of the fact people are more likely to do so, if they know there is a good chance of being taken to task if they don’t.

Unfortunately, this will require a complete transformation in the way in which traffic enforcement is currently practiced and I’m not at all convinced organisations like the JMPD will be prepared to transform from being a revenue generation arm of the City of Johannesburg to a law enforcement agency, whose mandate it is to ensure road safety.

Traffic authorities can’t continue to use the excuse “cameras don’t solicit bribes” to justify why they don’t do physical law enforcement and, indeed, do little or nothing to tackle corruption. They should take responsibility for the actions of their officers and actively combat corruption.

We, as responsible citizens and road users, should stop griping about what is going on and start demanding the authorities do their jobs! If this were to happen, I can almost guarantee we would see a significant decline in road carnage, since by the time the festive season comes around again, people would have formed the habit of behaving themselves.

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