We are all taxi drivers now

The aggressive taxi driver mentality has rubbed off on South African road users says Marianne Thamm

It began on Tuesday last week when two young men on a scooter kicked in my back left passenger door as I waited to turn right into street in Cape Town.

Why they did it, I’ll never know. But the driver and his pillion passenger sped off grinning malevolently like Heath Ledger’s The Joker in The Dark Knight, as they bobbed and wove their way between the bumper-to-bumper early morning traffic on Main Road, Rondebosch.

I have been thinking about what could have gone through the driver’s mind. Perhaps he was irritated that I had stopped to turn right and was waiting for oncoming traffic to clear and that he had to wait?

Maybe he just didn’t like my car. I drive…I grey VW Chico and I know it really pisses off some 4x4 drivers who treat entry-level vehicles the same way politicians do voters between elections.

So, the bike skollies just thought it was OK to unleash their aggression on my back door. I’ve told the cops who say they can’t do very much without a registration number.

On the same day on the N2 two tour busses came thundering down the fast lane in the rain doing at least 130km and churning up an impressive spray. The little sticker on the back indicating that the driver is not allowed to exceed 100km is there just for decoration we take it.

Now if either of those busses had had to brake suddenly there is no doubt they would have overturned or slammed into a number of other vehicles on the road.

And then a day later I froze as I heard the familiar screech of tyres and that dull, loud thud of steel hitting something stationary. Outside my house a copper-coloured Renault had wrapped its bonnet around a tree.

The driver was unhurt but had been speeding according to the other driver who narrowly escaped getting hit. And this down an AVENUE with a 60km speed limit where people walk their dogs and children ride their bicycles.

In his 2007 book, A Country At War With Itself, criminologist Anthony Altbeker, explores why some people in this country turn to crime and others not.

He uses the example of the introvert and the extrovert on a dance floor at a party noting that it only takes one or two extroverts to get the party started and for some of the introverts to start joining in.

Now taxi drivers are the extroverts on our roads, well at least in the Western Cape. They generally do as they please when there is no obvious law enforcement in sight.

Most ordinary motorists will have a horror story about speeding taxis passing on the left shoulder, taxis jumping traffic lights, taxis stopping on highways without indicating, taxis that bully their way through traffic jams.

This culture of lawlessness has in many ways become our national driving culture. The unacceptably high number of road accidents and the R45 million it apparently costs each year is evidence of this.

You would imagine that there would be a measure of self-preservation at work in the way you decide to drive or behave when you are in a vehicle. But something atavistic and visceral seems to happen to us on the roads, we don’t think too deeply, we act on impulse, aggression and emotion. And it’s killing more and more of us every year.

Next year I suspect a whole bunch of visitors will be arriving on our shores for the Fifa Word Cup. I think we’d better install driver orientation centres at every port of arrival where we can show visitors a short film that will help them deal with the homicidal maniacs we have become.


 

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