THE Eastern Cape has some of the worst taxis in the country with “horrific speeding records” – but only 23 public transport inspectors.
“This unit [public transport policing] is chronically under-resourced,” Transport MEC Thandiswa Marawu said in her strategic plan for the next two years.
Research published earlier this year by the University of Stellenbosch’s Thinus Booysen tracked taxis travelling between Mthatha and Cape Town and found that they more often than not exceeded the 100km/h speed limit, with some of them clocking speeds of up to 159km/h.
Booysen said most of the drivers he spoke to did not even know that the maximum speed limit for taxis was 100km/h.
“They told me the speed limit for taxis was 120km/h. They also claimed the passengers encouraged them to speed.”
He said the maximum taxi speed recorded was 159km/h on the road between Worcester and Laingsburg. Taxis also clocked speeds of more than 150km/h on the road between Queenstown and Comfimvaba.
The average speed between Laingsburg and Worcester, when the taxi drivers were on their “home stretch”, was “a disturbing 137km/h”, Booysen said.
Eastern Cape Transport Department spokesman Ncedo Kumbaca said apart from the 23 public transport inspectors, there was no other focused law enforcement strategy for taxis in the province.
“Road safety is about everybody using the roads; we will not single out the taxis.”
In its latest survey of vehicles on the country’s roads, the Road Traffic Management Corporation identified the Eastern Cape’s taxis as among the worst.
It found 12.6% of the province’s taxis had lights that did not work and 4% had worn tyres.
The Eastern Cape also scored the highest for the number of drunk drivers, with about 1% being under the influence in the day time and 1.6% at night, 1.7% did not have driver’s licences and 3.7% did not have public driver’s permits.
SA National Association of Taxi Owners spokesman Phillip Taaibosch said the organisation was concerned about the high number of taxi accidents.
“We have started a safety campaign called Hlokomela,” he said.
The campaign is aimed at ensuring that owners and drivers work together to get passengers safely to their destination.
Aurora Hospital rehabilitation expert Dr Rob Campbell said in his experience speed and drunk-driving were two of the main causes of taxi accidents in the province.
“In some instances, the taxi might not have caused the accident but due to problematic structural integrity – passengers not wearing seatbelts, overloading and speeding – the accidents often have catastrophic consequences.”