Unpacking the Ministers Collision

20 March 2015 - By Eugene Herbert

Hi Folks…


Without a doubt there was strong reaction to the crash in which Minister Chabane was tragically killed.


The reaction and much of the subsequent comment related to how the driver of the truck was responsible – not only for performing an illegal U-turn, but also for driving under the influence. His actions are certainly to be condemned and he will no doubt be held accountable.


Sadly this whole incident highlights a number of important issues which we would like to share with readers:


This driver will no doubt be convicted of something and face jail time. In all probability the reason will centre on the fact that a “high profile” person was involved and therefore all means at the disposal of the authorities will be applied to ensure that justice is done.This begs the question:


-         What about all the others thousands of drivers who are caught driving under the influence and whose cases never land up in court or worse still, a conviction? Could we pursue those with the same zeal and vigour that is being applied to the driver who caused the death of Minister Chabane ------OR DID HE?


Why would one question this?  Simply put, it is because the driver of the minister’s vehicle could also be liable - albeit for different reasons.


Based on the information that has been in the public domain, the crash occurred at around 1am in the morning and the vehicle was purported to be traveling at about 180kph.  That being the case there are a number of things that should be kept in mind:


-         At that speed  the vehicle is covering some 50 meters per second (at 200 this is 56 meters per second)


-         If the vehicle were  to be brought to an emergency  stop  and the driver of the vehicle  had a good reaction time (.5 sec)  then the vehicle would have covered  some 50 meters  plus before  he ‘hit’ the brakes.  Considering the time of night he was driving it is questionable that he was 100% alert, and so his reaction time could have been closer to 1 second. If that is true then over 100 meters would have been covered between the driver seeing the hazard (in this case the turning truck) and him beginning to apply brakes.


-         From the moment that the driver ‘hit’ the brakes he would have taken a further plus / minus 160 meters to come to a stop.


-         Combine the “reaction time” and the “braking time” and the total distance covered is anything between 216 and 300 meters.WOW


-         Legally a vehicle’s bright lights (it was 1am in the morning) should light up a distance of 100 meters which would have meant that the driver  was “out driving” his lights – by a substantial amount.


So if the above is true, one can appreciate questioning whether the truck driver was responsible for the death of Minister Chabane. His actions were no doubt a contributory factor but this blame should be shared by others!


This begs the question then as to the mind-set of those who drive (or who allow themselves to be driven) at high speed.  Is this not a recipe for disaster and is tantamount to playing Russian roulette!


Reasoning further on this matter we could speculate that this may not have occurred if:


·        Drivers were adequately equipped (and taught) the requisite skills for engaging with other road users. Yes that means proper licencing and post licence training.


·        Drivers handling vehicles which “have to” travel at high speed are adequately trained – both in terms of the skills needed to handle a vehicle  but more importantly  with  the ability to  analyse  the risk associated with any given situation.  Clearly traveling at such a high speed is inviting trouble and carries with it high risk.


Seeing this from a positive perspective, one can only hope that the relevant ministers will wake up and do something! That includes, but not limited to law enforcement and engaging with other stake holders to implement solutions.


In summary, we all grieve with all victims of road crashes but even more so because in many cases (too many) these could have been avoided! If the ministers car had been traveling slower (heaven forbid the speed limit) the maybe the driver would have been able to stop and maybe no one would have been killed!


Till next time - Drive Safe and let’s learn from the mistakes of others.


Eugene Herbert


Group Managing Director

The RAC Group 


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