This week, we shall continue our discussion on road safety. The traffic police often set up road blocks, especially at holiday times. Their purpose is supposedly to check if vehicles are roadworthy, or not. In the past, the police used to be very thorough when inspecting vehicles. Many things were checked – hooters, lights, indicators, brake lights, reverse lights, windscreen wipers...

But in recent years, things have changed. After erecting their tents along the road, the officers may only inspect a few vehicles during the day. Most of the time one can see up to half a dozen officers whiling away their time sitting or lounging around in their tent enjoying their overtime and thinking about what they will receive at month end.

And the police cannot give us the excuse that they do not have enough personnel to man the road blocks or that their officers are overworked! During holiday times, I often drive from Tonota to Francistown and I always pass a road block at Tati Siding. However, I have rarely been stopped here. And during the recent festive season, there was no road block at all at Tati Siding. And even if you are stopped at road blocks, the officer may only want to see your driving licence or vehicle licence.

And if your vehicle licence has expired, you will be in big trouble – your vehicle will be impounded on the spot! But having an out of date vehicle licence does not really mean that your vehicle is not mechanically roadworthy. It simply means that you have not paid the fee of a few hundred pulas. But the same officer may not be aware that your indicators and headlights are not in working order. Yet, these non-working items may increase the chance of your getting involved in an accident later!

And even if the police found that your hooter was not working, you may only be given a ticket after which you will be allowed to proceed on your journey. Moreover, you will be given some weeks to pay the fine. I once worked for government as a teacher/lecturer and often took out students on field trips. And on occasions, our BX drivers were fined for overspeeding or causing damage to other vehicles.

That’s good and shows impartiality towards fellow government employees! But the police should always be role models in obeying traffic regulations and ensuring that their vehicles are fit for the road. Sometimes their indicators or brake lights are not working or they may overtake, for no apparent reason, at speeds exceeding the speed limit.

Pedestrians sometimes behave as if they own the road. Often they may walk out onto the road as far as the centre line in the hope that drivers would slow down so that they can reach the other side safely. And they may behave in this way even if there is no zebra crossing. And sometimes, a crossing may be only some metres away! Jaywalking is a potential hazard and, in some countries such as Singapore, it can attract a heavy fine. The way a motorist parks may also cause accidents.

Reverse parking may help prevent motorists reversing and bumping into a passing vehicle behind when vacating their parking spot. In some institutions, only reverse parking is allowed; one reason being that such parked vehicles will be able to make a quick exit from the parking lot in cases of emergency. Bumping into another vehicle may not cause much damage, but once a garage knows that the guilty driver is insured, the bill for removing the dents and spray painting can run into thousands of pula.

And such drivers may now lose their no-claims bonus. Some people think that a good driver is the one who can react quickly to get out of trouble. But this is not true. A good driver is the one who anticipates trouble and avoids getting into it in the first place. Are you driving always asking yourself the question: What if...? For example, you may see a cyclist in front of you who is approaching a T-junction. Now ask yourself: What if he might decide to turn right there and so swerve across the road in front of me towards the centre line? By anticipating this, you would slow down and keep behind the cyclist until you are certain what he intends to do.

Then you will avoid running him over. You may approach the entrance to a school in the early morning during term time and you notice that many pupils are walking along the side of the road since there is no pavement. Now ask yourself: What if some of these pupils start playing around on the road or, in their impatience, some of them may move out into the road to pass others? Or what if one dashes suddenly across the road to greet someone he knows who is walking on the other side of the road? By anticipating this, you would slow down and allow plenty of space between your vehicle and the pupils.

To give another example, you may be following a car that is following a slow moving truck. Now ask yourself: What if the car driver suddenly overtakes the truck without indicating that he wishes to do so? Anticipating this would lead you to remain behind the car rather than overtaking him since he may collide with you. So, the message is clear – anticipate hazards that might develop in front of you!

Grahame McLeod