Taxi drivers are often described as reckless people who couldn’t care less about other road users and road rules, but this could soon change thanks to a Road Accident Fund’s (RAF) defensive driving skills initiative.
On Thursday September 15, more than 100 taxi drivers and owners from Khayelitsha and Mfuleni converged at the Mfuleni community hall for an hour-long safe driving lesson which equipped the drivers with defensive driving skills.
The lesson also strived to educate the drivers about the dangers of negligent driving while empowering them with critical driving skills.
The drivers were urged to be cautious when they were behind the wheel and to obey road rules. The organisation also took the opportunity to explain some of the procedures when making a claim from the fund.
Safety specialist at RAF, Agnes Masango, said the driving lessons were being conducted countrywide with the aim of empowering bus drivers and taxi drivers with better driving skills to minimise accidents. She said theprogramme was an annual event and they hope those who received the training would influence others.
“Millions of South Africans use public transport and they should feel safe when boarding a public transport. Drivers should know that they are not transporting goodie bags, but they are transporting people, and therefore they need drive with extra care,” she said.
Willem van Wyk, collision investigating specialist at The Action Saver Group, told the participants that most accidents could have been avoided if drivers had obeyed the road rules and were considerate of other road users.
He emphasised the importance of buckling up and urged the drivers to encourage their passengers to do so as well. He also pleaded with the drivers not to overload their vehicles. He said insurance companies and RAF do not pay out once they discovered that the vehicle was overloaded because this created an imbalance and made it easier for the vehicle to overturn.
Mr Van Wyk advised them to always conduct a risk assessment of their vehicle before embarking on a road trip, remembering to check tyre pressure in the morning. He added that tyres needed to be changed after four years from the manufacturing date.
He said overtaking was probably the most dangerous driving manoeuvre, pointing out that drivers should not change lanes while they were being overtaken or increase speed. Drivers should also establish how much traffic there is ahead before they overtake a vehicle, and should not overtake in a corner, he said.
“You are transporting fathers, mothers, children and breadwinners,” he warned. “Follow the road rules.”
Mr Van Wyk warned that it was also unsafe to drive with untied shoelaces or leaning too far backwards. With the festive season around the corner, he called on drivers to rest regularly during long trips, especially those who would be driving to the Eastern Cape.
He said driver fatigue was the major contributing factor to many road accidents.
Provincial secretary of South African National Taxi Council Mzoxolo Dibela expressed his gratitude to RAF. He said he hoped the initiative would help to change the driver’s attitude on the road.
He said the organisation had launched a safety programme called Hlokomela, aimed at ensuring that the drivers followed road rules. He said they conducted roadblocks, but lacked resources to do sodaily.
“We appeal to government to give us vehicles so that we could be able to conduct more roadblocks because at the moment we are using our own vehicles to conduct the roadblocks. Taxi industry plays a vital role in boosting our economy, but we don’t receive enough support from the government,” he said.
Taxi driver Mandla Kuphiso, who has been in the taxi industry for eight years, said he would definitely change his habits.
He said before the talk he had not taken wearing seat belts seriously. “I will obey road rules and I will never drive over the yellow line again,” he said.