As the country continues to navigate the challenges of road accidents, the strain of heavier and higher quantities of vehicles, and the need to reduce abnormal loads on roads, many sustainable solutions are being developed to meet longstanding issues.
“The relationship between infrastructure and economic growth is undeniable. With the ability to seamlessly transport goods and services across borders and vast distances, these roadways unlock opportunities that echo throughout society,” says Olebogeng Manhe, Chairman of the Gap Infrastructure Corporation (GIC).
“Safer, more reliable roads also translate to a higher quality of life, ensuring that more South Africans arrive safely at their destinations while products make it onto store shelves without substantial loss to the country’s many large and small businesses. Government and private developers alike thus have a responsibility to build better, smarter roads and fundamentally improve the ones we have.”
Addressing age-old road concerns
For South Africa to better protect road users, ensure the improved longevity of roads, and decrease instances of costly segmental road damage, certain advanced road management strategies need to be implemented by the government with assistance from the private sector.
Road safety, among others, is an urgent priority, as more than 10,000 fatal crashes which resulted in more than 12,000 deaths were reported in South Africa last year alone. And although many factors influence the number of accidents on our roads, such as human error or negligence, there are a few critical road alterations that could enhance road safety, notes Manhe.
“For example, government, with the help of road infrastructure development companies, could replace traditional low-visibility paint on road surfaces and signage with premium illuminated high-visibility paint. Road studs that provide physical feedback when a vehicle veers into a dangerous situation have also proven effective and should be installed on more of the country’s roads.
“Importantly, many high-traffic roads still require substantial upgrading, specifically to widen and add more lanes. This will improve traffic flow, reduce congestion, enhance lane discipline, simplify merging and exiting, and help minimise aggressive driving behaviours,” he says.
He adds that climate change has spurred the adaptation of another segment of road infrastructure: stormwater networks. “GIC’s stormwater drainage systems are not just conduits for rainwater disposal, but sentinels against flooding and pollution. In turn, hardwearing materials and durable construction techniques help us safeguard these vital systems against the forces of nature. This ensures that the roads built today remain resilient tomorrow.”
Harnessing technologies for traffic optimisation
By deploying sensors and cameras to monitor traffic flow, real-time data can be gathered on congestion, incidents, and road conditions. This enables governments to optimise, for example, traffic signal timings and reroute vehicles when necessary. Installing electronic signs displaying real-time information about accidents, road conditions, and alternative routes can likewise keep drivers informed and promote safer decision-making.
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can be used to analyse accident data, road features, and traffic patterns to identify accident-prone areas, informing targeted road design improvements.
Finally, through the incorporation of traffic calming-measures such as speed humps, chicanes, and raised intersections, responsible driving can be encouraged, pedestrian safety prioritised, and accident risks in urban areas reduced.
“These are no longer untested bleeding-edge concepts. Instead, these road design elements should be considered standard on all new roads, especially as they are becoming easier and cheaper to implement as the industry evolves.
“We are also at a point where we can implement these measures on existing roads with relative ease. The best way to do this is for government and private infrastructure development companies such as GIC to work more closely together and find cost-effective ways to improve our roads,” Manhe concludes.