Quick note on travelling safely this festive

This post expands on some of the discussions and points I was privileged to share this morning (06:20, on 20  November 2018 to be exact) on Lesedi FM. It was a discussion in Sesotho about road accidents, their causes and costs. Accident estimates come from the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) and the costs I mentioned in the interview are from a CSIR report for the RTMC about accidents. These are simply suggestions, and every trip is unique and quite special so they may not apply to all circumstances. 

Humans make mistakes all the time. Whether it is a slip of coffee at a resturaunt, too much sauce on chips from the Tuck Shop or just checking your phone around the wrong people at the wrong time. But these mistakes do not happen in isolation. They tend to be surrounded by a number of external factors beyond anyone’s control. There is always that little bit of “hope” that we can all truly trust each other—but that is just too naïve. According to 2017 data, traffic accidents, especially the type that rob lives from families, friends and colleagues, are a product of the things humans do wrong 91% of the time, more than vehicle (3%-4%) weather and infrastructure factors (5%). The complexity of road fatality analysis however, is not really part of this.

When to travel in these “festives”

The more vehicles there are on a road, the more information an average driver has to compute through. Registered vehicles increased from 11.9 million vehicles to 12.2 million from December 2016 to December 2017, while the number of driving licenses increased by 4% to 12.6 million between the same period. Then we have the sun, other drivers and their mood swings, trucks and these one lane highways or regional roads (like the R101) which can be very frustrating when combined. Persons aged between 25 and 39 dominate the fatalities on the road, so if you belong in this group be extra-extra safe. These are not only average drivers, but are probably the most active in terms of mobility. Persons aged between 25 and 39 dominate the fatalities on the road, so if you belong in this group be extra-extra safe.
One practical travel decision is which day of the week should trips be made during the festive season? Firstly, there are more fatal accidents than there are accidents that only injure people—so I’ll focus only on helping you keep your life intact with this information. Secondly, the focus here is on public transport users making long distance trips and car users.

December, Easter and Weekends are real roller coasters. But here is a summary of the trends I noticed in brief. During the December festive season, it seems that accidents are more likely on Saturdays, Sundays. Mondays have become 5% more risky, while Fridays have become 4% more safe. 

During Easter, accidents that take lives took place on Monday (20%), Fridays (26%) and Saturdays (24%)—with Mondays becoming more risky by 3%, and Sundays less risky by 2%.  During the year, there are more accidents between Sundays (23%), Saturdays (25%) and less so on Fridays (15%). During the year, there are more accidents between Sundays (23%), Saturdays (25%) and less so on Fridays (15%).

Weekends are barely a good idea for most journeys, but people work and like to travel on weekends. Most accidents in the country take place between 17:00 and 02:00, regardless of festive or off-peak seasons. The best direction to take may be to arrange a trip in the middle of the week early in the morning between 05:00 and 15:00—especially Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Safest way to get around

Donkey carts at petrol stations seem odd. Seeing this in a station in Mahikeng was a bit of a surprise until I wondered: where do these donkeys quench their thirst? It would be great if energy stations around areas where animal drawn transport exists to accommodate animal needs too: at least a water spot, wheel pumping and basic care.

The safest way to get around in this country is to use animal-drawn transport, but that is not practical for a hot long-distance trip this December! Fatal crashes in bus-train (0.1%), buses (1.1%), minibuses (8.4%) and midibuses (0.7%) are very unlikely compared motor cars and station wagons (47.8%) and these light delivery vehicles (19.7%). There is a much lower chance of being in an accident using public transport than there is travelling in a private car or transporting/traveling on a light delivery vehicle.

Another aspect is passenger flights, these are unlikely to get involved in any real life threatening event due to the nature of the business, but it would be a good idea to book a return-flight as soon as possible, or balance between public transport on your way back and flight on your way down. Either way, its a time effective but can be expensive for the total package. Access and mobility in the aviation sector can be affordable for a once a year trip, where saving R 110 per month adds up to certain return flights– the challenge still is that not all neighborhoods have access to airports in general. Many households can afford one flight per year, but the problem actually is having the money before hand- when the flight is relatively cheap. Big families are really the ones that find this mode highly inaccessible, but with a low budget, not too much baggage and good plan flying home is possible. Just make sure you check the public transport routes before hand!

So I used to travel between The Orchards in Pretoria North, and Stellenbosch in 2012, once-twice a year or so. The bus would take too long, and taxis were extremely uncomfortable for such a long distance. So, I would catch a taxi from Orchards to Pretoria Station (Bosman), then ride the Gautrain to OR Tambo International in Johannesburg. At OR Tambo, wait around for a while for a flight to Cape Town. When I arrived the first time, it was extremely awkward to realize that there was no real way to Stellenbosch and there’s no railway line connected to the airport (which is silly). So, I asked the security guards, a cleaner and a shop teller to help me find some taxis to Bellville. This meant walking out of the airport, through the parking lot, out of the airport property and climbing up a bridge. Once I crossed to the other side, taxis labelled Nyanga or Bellville would pass. The universal local sign, index finger pointed downward, got me a ride to Bellville. Once in Bellville, then a taxi to Stellenbosch was I think within the first three rows of the taxi rank. All I can recall is that arriving in Stellenbosch, in the late afternoon was a pretty decent achievement. But the journey was not cheap at all.

–Hlulani, On Airports and Public Transport
They sell through windows, winding down the edges of hunger and floating through the pleasures of passengers waiting. They sell it all on display and on request, or pre-order. Park Station, top floor on the other-side is one hell of a ride. But she still walks through, with ka skotlolo sa whatever– ice, cold drinks, steamy boiled corn, muffins and sandwiches. Now pizza.

Using long-distance taxi this festive?

If you are using public transport to make these long distance trips this advice still stands. Travelling between two or more Provinces can sometimes take as long as travelling in one Province if transport services are not available. It always makes sense to travel around the time when most people travel because that way there is a guarantee that you’ll leave pretty quickly. One of the ways travelling on Tuesdays and Wednesdays can work is if you arrange to catch the first taxi out of your nearest town. Most long-distance taxis and buses can be available throughout the day or provide an overnight service. If using a taxi, take the first morning taxi. To find out the estimated time for that particular day head to the taxi rank a few days before and talk to the marshals when in town. They usually have a general idea that could help you. Trying to arrive at your destination before 17:00 is always a good thing because that could give you some time to greet family and friends, join them for dinner and if you don’t have too much luggage actually buy a few things before commuting home.

Using cars this festive?

Sometimes the drives reveal untouchable landscapes. Ahead is a pedestrian bridge, and the highway leads to a few towns, Swartruggens, Zeerust and later on Mahikeng. Behind the shot is Rustenburg. The highway is a magical place.

If you are a driver, planning on making a trip with your family or friends make sure to move between 05:00 and 15:00, these are ideal times—even your insurer would be happy. Allocate this ten hour stretch for your trip because it is summer and the sun is up early. If you are travelling in facing the sun or the sun will be behind you consider leaving a little later, but be sure to start off early. Especially those driving between Zeerust, Mpumalanga (along Moloto), Limpopo (N1) and Gauteng—if you are in an extremely hot Province, like the Northern Cape you’re probably safe travelling much earlier but beware of any stray animals (or people and ghosts!). Planning to arrive at your destination between 14:00 and 15:00 is good because you could miss the traffic peak in most towns and cities, and at no point will you drive facing the sun. Most people on the road throughout that time will be fresh and only a few hours away from fatigue. Considering the pace of the day in general, it would be pretty smart to pay the toll fees on your eTag so that you skip the long queues at the toll gates– my guess for a trip to Limpopo is that this could save 30 to 40 minutes on a good busy day with very long queues.

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