The stretch of the N2 from Ermelo in Mpumalanga to Richards Bay in KwaZulu-Natal is a dangerzone. It spans 417km within which it connects travellers between Mpumalanga and KZN.
It’s also a major route for mine haulage to Richards Bay Harbour terminals. It stands out in contrast to its feeder routes the N11 and N17 both ending in Ermelo and in much better condition.
That section has claimed the lives of beloved innocent souls.
35km from Ermelo towards Piet Retief you are greeted by the first hazard, it often gets very misty in adverse weather conditions. Only recently two patients with serious injuries were admitted to Ermelo Provincial Hospital after a multi-vehicle collision.
The pile-up accident was captured on dashcam, it shows the moments before a truck seemingly crashes into another on this road amid misty conditions. From the video footage other motorists can be seen trying to flag down the trucker warning him of the danger ahead of him but he could not stop in time and crashed into the other vehicles.
Secondly, the road itself is not wide enough by modern standards, with little to no room for road shoulders. The shoulder is a strip of pavement outside an outer lane; it is provided for emergency use by traffic and to protect the pavement edges from traffic damage.
Overtaking is a perilous endeavor especially when overtaking longer haulage vehicles.
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The road is riddled with potholes that are being poorly patched. The surface is so uneven you can’t even risk driving with a loose grip on your steering wheel. Driving on an uneven surface or switching lanes between uneven surfaces can be enough to cause a serious accident.
The shift in surface height can cause an unexpected change in tyre direction, tyre damage, a blowout, and even axle damage. The structural integrity of your vehicle is put to question and your vehicle suspension tested to its functional limits.
Another chief hazard is the high traffic volume of heavy vehicles to and from Richards Bay especially side tipper interlinks.
Richards Bay Harbour is South Africa’s premier bulk port and the most modern. In 2005 the port handled 89 million tons of cargo. Richards Bay handles in excess of 80 million tons annually, representing 55% of South Africa’s seaborne cargo. This makes it the country’s largest port in terms of volumes handled.
It is also no wonder that 95% of bulk mine cargo travels via this stretch. The road has not been engineered adequately for handling this kind of onslaught from heavy vehicles.
Making matters worse is the reckless dangerous driving shown by sidetipper truck drivers. They overtake dangerously whilst also overspeeding.
There are no speed traps or mechanisms put in place to curb overspeeding within this stretch. Speed limits are enforced on most public roadways by authorities, with the purpose to improve driver compliance with speed limits. Methods used include roadside speed traps set up and operated by the police and automated roadside ‘speed camera’ systems, which may incorporate the use of an automatic number plate recognition system.
The last major concern and probably also the greatest. As the road reaches Pongola, it becomes very wide and smooth, a major relief from being thrown corner to corner whilst dodging potholes, an open smooth wide tarmac presents a temptation to use a heavy foot on the accelerator.
However this section of road winds down through steep and descents through a residential area. Livestock roams unrestricted onto the road. There are various schools and hospitals scattered along this route, therefore there is a high pedestrian traffic especially school going children.
To imagine that the overspeeding brigade of the side tipper interlink trucks reach alarming high speeds of over 100km/h, and drive with such recklessness whilst passing through this residential area is a major concern.
Given that our policy makers are reactionary not proactive, it is no wonder. But it’s a death trap nonetheless.
The responsible authorities should police and enforce speed limit control measures.
Coming from Richards Bay going via Pongola to Piet Retief is advised against.
Steep inclines restricts heavy trucks to very slow speeds, providing ample opportunity for marauding hooligans who loiter within the vicinity.
They climb on the back of the truck tractor unit disrupting crucial units and disabling the truck. They will steal your diesel straight from the tank and your belongings too. The area is also notorious for service delivery related protests and most seldom often trucks are the major victims.
Drive safely – By Freethinker Jo