'Lane-splitting' ban for bikes mooted

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By Neo Maditla

An increase in motorcycle deaths over the festive season in the Western Cape may in future see bike riders banned from overtaking between cars or straddling traffic lanes.

Road death statistics for the holidays were released on Sunday at a press conference attended by transport and public works MEC Robin Carlisle, community safety MEC Dan Plato and provincial traffic chief Kenny Africa.

According to Carlisle, 236 people were killed on the province’s roads during the festive season compared to 257 in December 2011/January 2012. This represented an eight percent decline.

The figures showed that pedestrian deaths had gone down by 13 percent, from 843 to 586, over the past four years while deaths from motorcycle crashes increased by 33 percent, from 63 in 2008 to 84 in 2012.

Carlisle said he was contemplating introducing a regulation that would require motorcyclists to “think of yourself as a car” - they would not be allowed to overtake between cars or to drive between traffic lanes.

Africa said he was planning to have discussions with the motorcycling fraternity to see how they could reduce road deaths.

He said it was the first weekend since April 1, 2010 that they had arrested fewer than 10 people in connection with drunk driving.

Carlisle said vehicle passengers had overtaken pedestrians as the leading class of fatalities in the festive season. Ninety-seven were pedestrians while 120 were inside vehicles, namely 45 drivers and 75 passengers.

“This immediately alerted us to a serious, and deadly, lack of seat belt compliance. Passengers, particularly in the rear seats, were clearly not buckling-up.”

Carlisle said it was difficult to police seat-belt violations as people normally buckled up when they saw road blocks.

He again defended the controversial “fatigue management” strategy that saw people being stopped at road blocks and asked to park their cars if traffic officers were convinced the drivers needed to rest.

Critics of this strategy included constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos who wrote that no law empowered law enforcement officers to detain drivers in this way and to confiscate their car keys.

On Sunday Carlisle said he was satisfied that “we are acting within the law and once we start going people get the message.

“We await a challenge legally and we have not had one”.

Africa said that during the festive season, of the 6 093 drivers stopped, 239 were asked to park and rest before continuing with the journey.

Plato said he was pleased that the province had moved closer to halving road deaths by December 2014 and admitted that there was still a lot of work to be done especially regarding the attitudes of drivers on the road. - Cape Argus

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