If they were really serious about stopping people drinking and driving, our government would do something constructive about it, other than just making money out of roadblocks in currently disadvantaged areas. Like providing a decent public transport system. But that’s never going to happen — our taxes are much better spent on rushing our troops up north so they can sleep with war widows and give them a nasty virus. So perhaps it’s time for a little lateral thinking. If people really need to drive after having a few drinks, let’s try to make it as safe as possible.

My first idea struck me as being a cracker. Just as we have toll roads and alternative routes, we could try rating our roads as “0,05 routes”. Teetotallers and drinkers who haven’t exercised their livers that day could take the safe route home, while the rest of us could wobble homewards among our peers. Then I realised that all those non-boozers who lived along the riskier routes would quite likely object to being forced to run the gauntlet, unless the government bought up their properties and moved them to a dry route en masse under some sort of new “Group Areas Act”. That’s not going to happen, so it’s time to move on reluctantly to plan “B”.

What about timing? Close the roads to the timid public for 30 minutes every two hours, and allow the pisscats to scuttle home peacefully in that window period. Every night between, say, 6.30pm and 7pm, 9.30pm and 10pm, and 11.30pm and midnight, the barflies could set sail for home while the rest have a quiet cup of tea and wait for the dust to settle. After studying the behaviour of some of my friends and colleagues, I realised that this wouldn’t work either. At 6.55pm they’d say: “We’ve still got time for a quick one before we go,” and five minutes later they’d have a legitimate excuse to settle down at the bar for another two-and-a-half hours. Their wives would never put up with that.

My final suggestion is brilliant, though I say so myself, due to its simplicity. We won’t claim the roads for our own, and neither should the non-drinkers. We’ll share them! Because they have difficulty accepting that we actually ride or drive better after a six-pack or two, we’ll even accept a couple of conditions.

Every vehicle can be equipped with a red flashing light, like emergency services use, and a loud beeper that can be heard from a couple of hundred metres away. Those for cars will have magnetic bases, so they can plugged into the cigarette lighter and plonked on the roof by even the least coordinated driver after he’s has a few, and motorcyclists can attach battery-powered lights to their helmets. Have a couple of toots, switch on your light and weave off homewards.

There could be a maximum speed limit of, say, 50 km/h for the Light Brigade, and anybody caught exceeding that or driving drunk without their light on could spend the night in a cell, picking up Aids from the SANDF members who never made it to Burundi. The general population could keep a wary eye open for any red lights heading their way and take the necessary evasive action if things started looking hairy.

I wasn’t prepared to go public with my plan, but then I read about the Department of Transport’s proposed “Car-Free Day” in October. At first I was excited, thinking we were going to all be given free cars that we could trade in on bikes, but as I waded through the 38-page — I kid you not — official document on the internet, I realised that it was serious. The intention is that all South Africans who are privileged enough to own motor vehicles are expected to enjoy voluntarily the trials and tribulations of public transport for a day, in the hopes that we’ll decide it’s Not Such a Bad Thing. Never mind that nobody will get to work or home on time, and we’ll all get mugged at the taxi ranks.

Perhaps somebody should tell them the way it’s supposed to work. First you provide a public transport system, then you encourage the public to use it. Or if you’re really intent upon reducing traffic congestion, you make it easier for people to own and use motorcycles.

Bugger this for a joke. I’m putting my light on and going down to the pub.



Gavin Foster

Gavin Foster

Durban photojournalist Gavin Foster writes mainly for magazines. His articles and photographs have appeared in hundreds of South African, American and British publications, and he's also instigated and...

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