'They prioritised revenue collection over road safety,' said JPSA's Howard Dembovsky, who added he had repeatedly warned about the dangers of setting up a roadblock on the slip road.
An accident that claimed three lives, including that of a year-old infant, on Johannesburg’s N12 highway would not have occurred had the Joburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) not set up a roadblock on a precarious bend, the Justice Project South Africa (JPSA) has said.
Howard Dembovsky, founder and chair of JPSA, said he had repeatedly warned the JMPD about the dangers of setting up a roadblock on the slip road for the past two years to collect traffic fines.
“Conducting roadside stops to check for traffic fines is not a road safety campaign or operation. That is revenue collection. That is exactly what happened here. They prioritised revenue collection over road safety,” he said.
Dembovsky said it appeared the driver of the vehicle was travelling along N12 west at “freeway speed” when she arrived at where the traffic was backed up, near the Southgate Mall, on a blind bend and crashed her vehicle on the bridge on Sunday afternoon.
“She applied brakes suddenly, swerved and hit the pillar of the bridge because traffic was backed up by the JMPD roadblock, which was on a blind bend,” said Dembovsky.
In a harrowing tweet after the accident, the JPSA wrote “Congratulations @AsktheChief01 and @JoburgMPD, your favourite roadblock site on the N12 has finally killed 3 people.
“It was bound to happen one day but you turned a blind eye to it in favour of chasing traffic fine revenues. Will you finally cease this #INSANITY?”
Dembovsky said though JMPD were authorised to set up a roadblock anywhere, they should be able to assess and determine safety but said this particular spot, though risky to road users as it was concealed, was JMPD’s favourite because there are lots of vehicles to stop.
He said it was “insane” to set up a roadblock on a highway, unless it was to stop dangerous criminals with guns and not for collecting fines.
“(Collecting fines) cannot be done at the expense of road safety. Follow procedure, do not set about a roadside collection,” he said.
JMPD spokesperson Wayne Minnaar said the accident will be investigated like any other fatal accident and that only the outcome of the investigation could determine the cause.
“That would determine how the accident happened, the speed the vehicle was travelling and the condition of the road at the time. The how and why would be determined by the investigating officer,” he said.
The Road Traffic Management Corporation is set to look into the circumstances of the accident, with spokesperson Simon Zwane saying they would also look into strengthening the standard operating procedures for roadblocks.
He said though there was no law preventing traffic officials from setting up roadblocks on highways, the principle was that this should be done in a manner that did not endanger the lives of road users and officials.
“The roadblock must be visible from a distance so that motorists approaching and officials manning the roadblock are safe. A roadblock is intended for safety and must not cause harm. We have no details of the matter to make an informed statement but we will await a report and make a determination,” Zwane said.
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