SANRAL and Western Cape traffic authorities working hard to ensure holiday travellers arrive alive

SANRAL and Western Cape traffic authorities working hard to ensure holiday travellers arrive alive

Western Cape, 22 December 2023 – After a long, hard year South Africans are looking forward to the festive season, ready to let their hair down and hit the road to holiday destinations across the country. It’s a time to relax and let go of the year’s stresses and strains.

But, if there’s one thing that can be an obstacle – literally – to such carefree plans, it’s the long road to getting there. Think delays at Stop/Go signs and yawning waits in the baking sun, ponder potholes, roadworks that stretch for kilometres… and soon that much anticipated seaside sojourn starts to feel more like sand grating your brain in the desert.

Luckily, if you are driving through the Western Cape, you are in for an easy ride that authorities are working hard to ensure is safe and without delays.

The roads most popularly used in the province for vacation destinations include:

  • N1 from Cape Town, through the Karoo, onto Johannesburg, Polokwane, and eventually to Beit Bridge on the Zimbabwe border;
  • N2 from Cape Town, through George, Gqeberha, East London, Durban and then Ermelo;
  • N7 from Cape Town, through the West Coast, onto Namaqualand and ends at the Namibian border.

The South African National Road Agency SOC Limited (SANRAL) manages all national roads in the province and said it takes a holistic approach all year round to making these roads safer – including self-explaining and forgiving well maintained roadways that reduce the risk of road fatalities on the national road network.

SANRAL has also partnered with the national Department of Transport on Operation Vala Zonke, a project that aims to fix all potholes across the country by February next year.

The initiative was launched in Johannesburg by Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula in August.

SANRAL Western Region Manager, Randall Cable said: “SANRAL is the implementing agency on Vala Zonke, working with provincial and municipal departments to address pothole patching, so the work is ongoing with the departments attending to their potholes.”

Cable said SANRAL ensures potholes on the national road network, like the N1, N7, N2, are fixed within 48 hours of a pothole being detected.

“We have routine road maintenance (RRM) teams that patrol the entire network at least once every 24 hours to inspect the condition.”

When it comes to the tedious and time-consuming roadworks that involve frustrating Stop/Go waiting times, there is good news.

The construction industry shut down on December 15, which put a stop to all conventional work on roads. This means that on all national roads the Stop/Go system will be halted and two-way traffic systems are in place.

SANRAL said while it seeks to make road users comfortable on the road, it is also the responsibility of road users to ensure their own safety and that of their passengers.

“Traffic volumes are always up this time of year, and that means that roads will be congested at peak periods, such as Christmas, New Year and the back-to- school period,” said Cable.

“SANRAL appeals to road users to plan their journeys and allow sufficient time to get from point A to point B. We also promote the use of rest and service centres along the highways.”

Driver behaviour is another red flag for traffic authorities. Outgoing Western Cape MEC for Mobility, Daylin Mitchell, said authorities have zero tolerance for motorists who fail to obey the rules of the road. 99 Newly graduated provincial and municipal traffic officers will bolster the provincial road safety efforts this year. Mitchell has just been appointed as the Speaker of the Western Cape Parliament.

“We’ve adopted a 365-day approach to road safety and will continue during the festive season to provide intensive, structured traffic law enforcement and road safety interventions.

“We will be enhancing the Habitual Traffic Transgressor Programme, supporting drunk driving operations, using our sky-banner campaign, enhancing communication strategies through mobile roadside billboards and boosting social media coverage of our operations through the Safely Home Programme,” he said.

The Habitual Traffic Transgressor Programme will identify repetitive bad driver behaviour, which can potentially lead to road crashes and fatalities. Mitchell said the province’s overall focus this festive season is the maintenance and the regulation of safe and responsible road user behaviour.

Fatigue management is another area that will receive particular attention.

Said Mitchell: “The focus and objective of this intervention will be to specifically monitor, regulate and enforce public transport vehicles travelling interprovincially on all major routes, using an electronic application which was developed to address driver fatigue.”

It works by creating a log of public transport drivers, which allows traffic authorities to track key fatigue-indicating data such as departures and arrival points, driving times, speed profiling as well as vehicle tracking. The fatigue alerts assist officers to identify and stop drivers who may have been driving without a rest period for further investigation.

It also entails screening for physical signs of fatigue.

“Blood pressure and glucose tests are performed by Emergency Medical Services. Fatigued drivers will be compelled to rest before continuing their journeys. The implementation of these well-established operations creates a safe environment for any other motorist to voluntarily have a rest period, thus applying the two-hour driving time or 200km rule,” Mitchell said.

Pedestrian behaviour is another area of concern for traffic authorities in the province.

“The unpredictable movement of pedestrians and, more specifically, intoxicated pedestrians across the province have been the largest contributor to our fatality rate throughout the year, and the festive season is no exception.

“As part of our integrated Pedestrian Safety Plan, the focus will be on visibility, jaywalking and drinking and walking.

“We are most definitely going to watch our routes attentively in order to create the omnipresence that is needed to ensure road safety in the Western Cape,” Mitchell said.