Claudia Hirtenfelder
Claudia Hirtenfelder

Who do you think you are?  

Who do you think you are?

You who drive in the emergency lane, you who turn right from the far left, you who crawl at 60km/h in the fast lane.

Who do you think you are?

You who speed through orange and red, you who ignore solid white lines, you who stop anywhere you like.

Who do you think you are?

You who text while doing 120km/h, you who drive up wrong ways, you who jump queues.

Who do you think you are?

You who don’t indicate, you who don’t let someone in when they have indicated, you who yield at stop streets, and you who don’t slow down at all.

Just who do you think you are?

Do you think you’re special? Do you think you need to be where you need to be more than I need to be? Do you think rules are made to be broken? Do you think your infringements don’t matter?

I ask myself these questions every time I climb into my car and pull out into the mayhem that is Gauteng traffic and I can’t help but think that I know who you are:

You are selfish, irresponsible, and the reason everyone on our roads, particularly in Gauteng, are angry. You are the reason people get fed up, despondent, and apathetic to the rules of the road and break them themselves. You are reason people dread climbing in their cars and the reason why death tolls are so high and accidents even higher. You are to blame and you should not shirk from such responsibility

It is easy to hide behind campaigns that paint speed and drinking and driving as the only evils on our road. It is easy to look at people who break those rules as criminals. It is easy to forget that the road system and network is a fragile one and that when the smallest of rules are not obeyed it leads to bigger and scarier consequences. It is easy to put the responsibility of our death tolls and accidents only at the feet of Metro officers and their poor enforcement. But why when it comes to safety and efficiency would you want to take the easy road? Why would you want to put your own life at risk? And worse, those of people around you?

As much as litter and broken windows can lead to further social disobedience so can breaking what appear to be harmless rules. When you are in traffic and you are itching to slip into the yellow lane because you think it won’t matter to anyone else, you are wrong. It matters.

Not only do you raise the blood pressure of several other drivers but you also screw up the whole system. While you may be able to squeeze in a few cars ahead of everyone else your squeezing exacerbates the traffic and means that as a collective the congestion will last longer.

When you decide to inch through a robot and end up standing in the middle of the intersection you are to blame for people’s frustration and you are also to blame for the pending gridlock.

Do not be naïve. Do not think your actions don’t matter. And if you know they matter and don’t care then I would encourage you to look inside and ask why you are so self-centred and indifferent to others around you.

I fear that the anger and selfishness on our roads is symptomatic of a nation that is angry and selfish and that the apathy and disregard for safety on our roads is characteristic of an apathetic and disrespectful people. Let us, you and me, be more responsible, be more caring, and be kinder to our fellow road users (both pedestrians and drivers). Maybe then we can envision a country where the needs of “I” are replaced by the needs of “all”.

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