inibus taxi drivers have a reputation in South Africa of being aggressive and inconsiderate towards other road users, and according to reports last year the Pretoria Metro Police fined about 67 000 Coach Hire Borehamwood of them for various traffic offences.
In my experience this could also be said of most other drivers in South Africa as well. In a survey of drivers in Johannesburg conducted by the Automobile Association of South Africa it was found:
that most respondents rated themselves as good drivers and had been driving for at least 16 years
63.3% of respondents reported experiencing aggression directed at them on a daily basis
47.7% of respondents reported having children in the car during a road rage incident
47% of all road rage is generated by young drivers between the ages of 18 and 25
1.1% of respondents admitted to assaulting someone during a road rage incident
3.4% of respondents claimed to have been assaulted during a road rage incident
Minibus taxis provide cheep, fast, efficient, but clearly not safe, transport to mainly black commuters. They are, according to anecdotal evidence, frequently un-roadworthy, overloaded and driven by unlicensed drivers.
The drivers of minibus taxis also tend to completely ignore road rules, stops, barrier lines, traffic lights and other safety measures. They tend to be arrogant and discourteous to other drivers and often to their fares as well.
But for many people living in the black townships all over South Africa they are still the preferred mode of commuting.
I once remonstrated with a minibus taxi driver for simply ignoring a whole host of traffic regulations in a travelling distance of about four kilometres. His response to me was simple: all the other drivers on the road are also criminals who disregard the rules. And unfortunately, he is right.
I have observed drivers all over South Africa and feel that their driving leaves much to be desired.
The Mayor of Pretoria, Dr Gwen Ramokgopa has promised, in the wake of the two deaths last week, to beef up policing in the Metropole by recruiting and training another 600 officers.
While extra police officers might help I think that a more radical approach is needed to address the issues that make South African drivers so aggressive.
As a spokesperson for the AA, Gary Ronald, has said: "Without doubt a serious road culture change has to be effected."
The spokesperson continued: "More and more injuries and deaths are being reported on a daily basis involving cyclists and motorcyclists. Very little is being done to educate road users of the risk these two road users face on our roads. Motorcycle driver training is almost non-existent.
"This also applies to commuters who use our public transport system. Almost all commuters face daily tribulations and risk using the various modes of transportation to get to work. Personal safety while walking in the dark to stations, bus or taxi ranks and then the accelerated risk while on our roads makes them especially vulnerable to injury or death," he says.
The AA estimates that road deaths cost South Africa about R52 billion per year, about 3.6% of GDP.
While these figures are frightening, the snuffing out of two young lives in a matter of days, and in such awful circumstances, overshadow the financial statistics.
Clearly something needs to be done, and I think it has more to do with psychological and social issues than law enforcement per se, important as that is.