Triumph in tragedy: Mother proposes how to avoid road deaths

Mhlanga recommended two proposals to eThekwini. (UCT)

Mhlanga recommended two proposals to eThekwini. (UCT)

A mother who lost her child in a road accident turned to academia for answers.

Mabuyi Mhlanga had enrolled for a master’s course at the University of Cape Town with a focus on rapid transport networks a few months before her daughter’s death. She then changed the focus of her studies to road safety in the vicinity of schools, with a focus on eThekwini.

Her daughter was killed crossing the road to get something from her mother’s bag.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Mhlanga said she “had so many unanswered questions” over whether there was something more she could have done to prevent her child’s death: “When I look back, as much as it pains me, I can actually see that behaviour in my daughter.
She didn’t take time to look properly before crossing the road.”

Mhlanga’s research, based on the eThekwini Transport Authority’s (ETA) databases, looked at 10 Durban primary schools with a high rate of traffic incidents. She interviewed principals and asked what safety measures had been put in place.

Some of her findings included that only the roads with a school gate had speed bumps; while other roads lacked consistent signage warning motorists of pedestrians.

She also found that schools with the highest incidents were found 1km from each other.

“Since I work for the transport authority and my research was based on the information that the eThekwini Municipality collects, I presented my findings at the ETA annual conference, driven by the deputy head responsible for road safety, and made various proposals.”

Mhlanga recommended two proposals to eThekwini, one of which was practical road safety education where children would be taken onto the roads under adult supervision and taught to “understand the realities of the dangers they face when navigating traffic”.

Her second proposal was to adopt a “school-zone concept” where a 2km area around the school is demarcated with signage and speed bumps to slow down traffic. Mhlanga also recommended that law enforcement around the schools is increased.

Mhlanga will graduate on Thursday, December 13.

Gemma Ritchie

Gemma Ritchie

Gemma Ritchie works in the Mail & Guardian's online department. She majored in English Literature at a small liberal arts college in the USA.  Read more from Gemma Ritchie

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