In only a week the school holidays kick off, and thus the huge exodus of students heading home for the holidays. Whether home is in the village, at the farm or at the coast, one that that almost everybody making the journey will have in common is the fact that most will use the roads.
There have been visible and concerted efforts over the last months by the government to maintain the conditions of the national roads, particularly, in anticipation of the added volume of vehicles it will carry during the next two or three months, as commuters travel to and from various destinations across the country.
The Lounge caught up with Traffic Officer Marius Johnson as he was coming off from his shift at a ‘speed trap’.
“People assume that we are trying to trap them, but that is not the case. Our duty is to enforce the rules of the road and this is simply one of the measures to do that.
Speed is the number one reason for accidents on our roads. There are other reasons, yes, but speed is the number one, reason. Throughout the day here, we see people going at speeds of up to 180km/h when the speed limit is 100km/h. Where are they rushing to? If an animal suddenly jumps or walks into the road in front of you, how are you going to control your vehicle in time to prevent the loss of life?” the officer asks.
Johnson says that he is pleasantly surprised that motorists are more cautious with their driving and that the adherence seems to be improving, compared to previous years.
“I don’t know if it the awareness campaigns that are working or if people are actually just being more responsible, but it is good to see that more motorists are driving licensed; where we could at some stage have had 50 arrests over weekends of people driving under the influence of alcohol, we now see a reduction in that number, which is encouraging.
Now with this silly season that is coming, I just hope that we will continue to see a decline in these numbers, especially in fatalities on the roads. Those are really heart-breaking, and many times could have been avoided if speeds were reduced and alcohol had not been consumed before or even while driving.”
Having been a traffic officer for well over 15 years, Johnson says he has seen it all. He is also well known among the residents in his town and he says that people know that he is a no-nonsense, by the book officer.
“I have had instances where people try to bribe me to get out of a fine. I always tell them ‘I don’t know who the last guy is that accepted such from you, but I am not him’, and I probably give them the maximum fine that is within my power to give at that time. Fines are there as a corrective measure, to encourage people to adhere to the rules of the road and so that there is a punitive consequence when they wilfully fail to do so. So now the guy who is accepting to be bought off, he is teaching the motorist that there is no consequence for his action, that he can simply throw money at it and it will go away, without him having to do anything to improve his behaviour.
That is wrong! Very wrong. I many times encourage people to report officers who request or suggest a bribe to them, but it seems that the suggestion always comes from the motorist; so how will that motorist now say ‘ja, I offered him a bribe and he accepted it, now I want to report him for taking my money’? Unless it is a sting operation, maybe then, but under normal circumstances that is almost never going to happen,” he says.
Johnson says he would advise the public to always obey the rules of the road, for their own safety and for the safety of other road users.
“When you are driving, be it in town or on the national roads, mind the road signs, stick to the speed limits, always have your lights on, even during the day.
As I have said earlier, speed kills; so I would plead with the Namibian nation, reduce your speed. Do not go over what the limit on that particular road is.
If you are in an urban area, be even more vigilant. The holidays are around the corner and children may be playing in the streets or even just walking on the road to go to the shop. Do not drink and drive; I cannot emphasise this enough.
Do not drink and drive. When you are drinking you lose your sense and you become reckless. It is better to call a taxi to take you home or to have a designated driver, than to take the risk and end up in jail or worse, taking somebody’s life.
Don’t overload. If you are transporting people make sure you have a PDP. Make sure your license is valid and on your person each and every time you get in behind the wheel. It should be like your cell phone; you cannot leave it behind.
Lastly, I want say that I wish all our road users to be vigilant and to be cautious.
There are many animals near the roads due to the drought situation in our country, so we should be aware of that and take that into consideration when we are on the roads. And please, do not drink and drive.”