11 September 2018 Read: 88
The R71 between Polokwane and Tzaneen is ranked as the tenth most dangerous road to travel in the country. This is according to the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) who released their list of the top 20 most dangerous routes in South Africa, in March this year.
Realistically though, if one takes into account that the top seven spots are occupied by various sections of the N1 and N2 highways, Magoebaskloof pass could be seen as the third most dangerous route.
There have been 91 accidents on the Magoebaskloof pass and 18 on the R528 Georges Valley road since the start of January 2018 to last week Friday alone. In total 18 people have died in these accidents – the majority of which were caused by heavy transport trucks.
This means that on average there are 11 accidents and two deaths a month on these two routes only. Friday’s accident claimed the life of a driver when the interlink he was steering along the R528 capsized and spread his load of approximately 38 tonnes of bricks across the tarmac. Emergency services had to use the Jaws of Life to extract the body from the completely demolished cab. It took them more than an hour and a half.
According to the Limpopo Department of Transport however, these roads are open for use by transport trucks despite the very obvious dangers they pose to general traffic commuters. We managed to speak to Matome Moremi Taueatsoala, the spokesperson for the department, after we were unable to reach him on any of his cell phone numbers and finally managed to pry a response out of him over WhatsApp.
He confirmed the statistics above, and shockingly stated that the department’s view on the possible reasons for these extremely shocking numbers were due to the skills of the drivers. “Heavy motor vehicles are forcing to use Makgobaskloof road even if their vehicles are not in the status of handling the road environment,” he said [we quoted him verbatim]. “In some instances drivers themselves lack skills to can control their vehicles in that road environment. The department urge heavy motorists drivers to avoid using Makgobaskloof road and use R528.”
He then stated that the roads are open for use by “all types of vehicles”. We found this strange as there are large cautionary signs along the R71 (one in Haenertsburg and one in Polokwane) which clearly state that heavy vehicles should not travel on these routes.
“All the routes are correct, it depend on the strength of the vehicle and the driver,” he added [again quoted verbatim]. “Currently accidents are investigated by RTMC, the department does not have capacity to investigate. Three officers have started with training on crash investigation this year.”