Monday, October 29, 2007

Deadly Sections of the N1 (FIRST PERSON ACCOUNT)

Driving from BFN to JHB is quicker than the total flying time (including going to the airports and back). The downside is it's quite a dangerous drive over weekends, especially at night. I have been making the trip from Johannesburg to Bloem and back a lot lately. I'll be going down again this weekend for the OFM. I feel it's important to warn motorists of the most deadly sections.


From the perspective of someone leaving Johannesburg after work on a Friday, it's an enormously stressful and long drive, since you might leave the office at 15:30, crawl through traffic snarls for 90 minutes, meaning you're on the road for 5 hours or more - doubling your travelling time effectively. Then the last section, just before you arrive in Bloem is very dangerous. You're tired, you want to get there, and here traffic slows down to an 80km/h crawl again. It's frustrating.

Unlike the 70km or so before you reach JHB, the 200km from Kroonstad to Bloem is mostly single lane highway, with several sections where the shoulder eats away. But by the time you're 40km from Bloem, you may find very long echelons, trains of cars stuck behind trucks, sometimes two or three trucks in a line, unable to overtake - or too hesitant - and this area has some subtle rises and dips that hide solitary vehicles. Beware.

For Drivers and Cyclists

For the cyclists doing the OFM, many of the road cateyes have been ripped apart in the 20km section of N1 on the JHB side around Glen. What remains is a verticle screw. This can give cyclists carrots, and may penetrate worn tyres of vehicles, or worse if one actually skids over this vertical piece of metal. I saw quite a few of these so avoid being close to the yellow line for this section.


I probably averaged 130km/h for last night's trip. Trucks make the first section very difficult especially where two trucks hover around each other, and then a hesitant driver hangs around, making for a very difficult pass. This section is under construction, with many areas where the shoulder converges suddenly, leaving nowhere for slower vehicles to give way*. The section from Winburg to Ventersburg used to be incredibly dangerous, this is now a great section, with plenty of double lanes.

After Ventersburg the road is dangerous at night, with some sharp curves, disappearing verges, and deep and sudden dips. The Kroonstad section is great, but last night a car was parked on the right hand verge, with two wheels on the highway, and what happened was I was following a vehicle that was passing a truck, and this vehicle just scraped through an unexpectedly narrow gap, and I just held on and followed him through. I watched in my rearview mirror expecting yellow petals of flame to emerge as someone collided behind me. Hopefully no one did.

Vehicles on the side of the road are a very dangerous hazard at night. Even if your hazard lights are on, many drivers do not expect this sort of thing. On Friday night a car was lying off the road, and 200 metres further on a big truck, in complete darkness, was hovering like a black ship. Perhaps it suffered an electrical failure. But no one can blame the driver for seeing the lump of metal at the last second, half in the road, and properly ripping the steering wheel in fright and rolling the car. A police car parked behind the lorry, it's bright blue lights warning drivers of the situation.

I'd also advise listening to OFM - 94-97FM (on the Kroonstad side of the N1 towards Bloem) or 94.7 Highveld Stereo (the Kroonstad to Joburg side of the N1) as both these stations have traffic reports. OFM's are better though, and always involve reports of N1 drama.

If you know the contact numbers for either of these stations, and you see hazards etc., do other drivers a favour and phone them in, especially if you're not driving alone. If you know the traffic report contact numbers, please post them here in the comment sections. I've looked on the sites and couldn't find them.

We're all on the road together, so flashing lights at people and irritating them more than is necessary only increases the chance of people behaving rashly. If someone approaches with their brights on, flash them once. Don't overdo it. Some people have set their lights too high, and they can't do anything about it. Those cases - where driving isn't perfect - let's learn to live with it and be communicative and helpful, rather than preoccupied with a race, with haste.

Final Word

I think good drivers are confident drivers, who do sometimes take risks. But it's a problem when it's about ego, and putting yourself in front of someone else (at their expense). When taking a risk, there is an unknown factor. What I realised again last night, is sometimes there are hazards you would never know to expect (like shadowy lorries virtually invisible on the side of the road, and vehicles parked in the right hand lane). This being the case, if you take a risk you;re so much more likely to find yourself in trouble if you're unlucky enough to encounter one of these hazards while you're in the middle of a risky manuoevre.

If you anticipate danger, or if approaching traffic is heading towards a dangerous scene, put on your hazards. One flash for brights. Blinding another driver - even if his brights are on (intentionally or not) isn't going to help your chances to get home safely.

PS. Notice Ron Weasely will be starring in a new comedy...
*In fact it is now illegal to drive within the yellow line area, so if someone does not give way, be patient.
**Contact details I have for OFM are:
Hannika Struwig, Communication Executive: OFM, Tel: 051 5050900, Fax: 051 5050905,
Cell: 082 873 2650, E-mail:

No comments: