Unique Challenges on South African Roads - Street Surfers

ERS Driver Safety Series: Unique Challenges on South African Roads – Street Surfers

In our next instalment of our Driver Safety Series for South African drivers (you can read our blog on potholes here: https://excelrs.co.za/ers-driver-safety-series-unique-challenges-on-south-african-roads-potholes/), we explore a very South African phenomenon: “Street Surfers”. In this blog, we will explore what legal options drivers have

if an unfortunate accident happens involving these individuals, and provide some tips as to how and why coexistence is possible, as street surfers play a vital role where service delivery is failing.

It’s Thursday morning in Pretoria and all drivers need to dodge the various “street surfers”, aka recycle guys’ trolleys (illegally) occupying lanes meant for vehicles. Not only that, but the areas around dustbins “raided” are mostly left a mess.

This was my first reaction to dealing with these individuals on my way to the office. For some reason, this situation stayed in my mind the entire day.

About two years ago I stumbled upon a short film made by Frank Solomon, a professional big-wave surfer. He decided to find out more about his fellow surfers far from the ocean, but who have a direct impact on his playground – the “street surfers” of Gauteng. During his investigation, he found the following:

  • They travel up to 50km in one day to do their collections
  • They start this process around 3 in the morning
  • In 2019, around 90% of ALL recycling of plastic and paper were done by the street surfers
  • They earn around R300 per 100kg of plastic and/or paper collected per day
  • This is the only option they have to provide for their families
  • They are the reason that a lot less plastic and paper end up in our oceans

(To watch this short film: https://vimeo.com/347314447)

Should we not rather view these guys as heroes? As saviours of our oceans, our planet? Surely they are bigger contributors towards recycling than we are?

I’m a firm believer in everyone’s choice to be either part of the problems we have in South Africa, or be part of the solution. To me, it’s clear that the street surfers are part of the solution to one of the problems we have and they will have my compassion going forward.

This, however, does not deal with the challenges they contribute to while driving. How does one deal with this sudden (or not so sudden) obstacle in your lane of travel?

The basic reason for Motor Law in South Africa deals with how to act in any situation with the sole purpose of avoiding an accident. And you will find that a court of law will always ask: “What have you done to avoid this accident?”. The answer that they should not have been there will not be enough – the fact is they were there.

If you do land up in a situation where you are involved in an accident because of a “street surfer”, you will enjoy cover from your insurer. But what happens if you are not insured and you believe that the accident was not your fault? You can go to notyourfault.co.za for assistance if another vehicle acted negligently and collided with you due to trying to avoid or recklessly overtaking a “street-surfer”.

On any given day (in our case, Thursdays), I am quickly reminded after I’ve started driving that it’s (as I have come to think of them now) Street Surfer day. On those days I am more aware than usual to give them the right of way, or to drive carefully around them.

Are they negligent, even reckless and annoying? Yes, for sure they are. The only control I have over this situation is how I think about it.

  • It’s easy to judge.
  • It’s more difficult to understand.
  • Understanding requires compassion and patience.
  • Through judgement, we separate.
  • Through understanding, we grow.

And this is my choice!

We trust that the above will provide you with the help and guidance you need if you find yourself in a “street surfer  situation”, and do keep an eye on our socials for our next instalment in the series of driver safety tips for South Africans.

If it was not your fault, Excel Recovery Services and Phetolo ERS can assist to turn negative impacts into positive outcomes. Help is only a click away: https://excelrs.co.za/notyourfault/

We’ve got your back!

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