Noord Street taxi rank in Johannesburg. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/ERIC MALEMA
Noord Street taxi rank in Johannesburg. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/ERIC MALEMA

A couple weeks ago there was a horror crash on the road to Durban; multiple vehicles including two taxis, multiple deaths. I drove by the accident scene, it made me sick to see the bodies, strewn all over the road and median. Two days ago 24 taxi passengers died instant deaths as they were hit head on by a bus.

Not a big deal, I guess, as no one raised an eyebrow or made even a serious comment. A day or two later another couple people were snuffed out in a taxi collision — again no comment other than we mourn the needless loss of life or some other banal, inane comment by some anonymous official.

This is just another normal day at the office on the roads of SA. Any driver with a modicum of driver training (and maybe even a legally obtained licence … not the R1,500 under-the-table one) and respect for the laws of the road is appalled when driving to work or driving on just about any road in the republic.

South Africans drive too fast, overtake with alacrity and no regard for their or the safety of others. The human brain is the fastest computer on the planet in its ability to track oncoming vehicles and the time we have to overtake and get back safely into the left lane in the face of an oncoming vehicle, is incredible.

We are amazing but half the drivers just do not possess the brain power or the training/experience to make the necessary calculations in order to drive safely. They just don’t perform the rudimentary calculations that are required on a second-to-second basis while driving on any road.

Were more than two dozen South Africans to be killed in a mining disaster, even if caused by an earth tremor, or the same number were to die in a plane crash or at a construction site, there would be a public outcry, the government would be ordering judicial inquiries and the trade unions would be jumping. We would not, however, feel like we had witnessed a mass murder, as we do in the case of the road carnage.  

The taxi industry is massive and it plays a vital role in the life of most South Africans, whether directly of indirectly. If a calculation were to be done of the total number of road fatalities in SA, I can bet my life that a disproportionate number would be attributable to the taxi industry.

We the public are all too aware of taxis and the danger they pose to other drivers, let alone the poor passengers who I am told are too frightened to demand that the driver slow down or not go speeding through a red light without a care the world.

I have never ever seen a Metro traffic cop catch a taxi for a moving violation. Are the traffic police afraid to take on the taxi industry? Are there no leaders in the taxi business who are able to stand up and say that the industry must be cleaned up and be made an example of a well-managed and safe transportation industry?

Uber has managed to capture a huge market because they offer just this: they are reliable, not that expensive if you have three passengers, they are safe (I have never ridden in an Uber that drives too fast or in any way unsafely), they obey all traffic rules and they are clean and comfortable.

It the minibus taxi industry does not clean up its act and offer a quality, safe product, an Uber clone will spring up and wipe them out. For me that cannot happen fast enough.

Dr Peter Baker
Parktown North