Gaby Bouwer- A Double Tragedy

In Memory of Gaby Bouwer
In commemoration of a tragic event

The 19th August has become a sad day for the town of Fish Hoek; this Thursday marked the first anniversary of the tragic death of Gaby Bouwer. Gaby was walking her dog, waiting to cross Kommetjie Road, just to the east of the notorious 17th Avenue junction, when she was struck and killed by an out of control taxi- allegedly being driven at speed by a driver with no license. I never had the pleasure of meeting Miss Bouwer, but as a father and a human being my heart goes out to Gaby’s family and friends, I cannot comprehend the anguish that they must feel towards such a senseless death.
At the time the death (I cannot bring myself to use the word ‘accident’ in a case such as this) quite rightly caused an outrage in the community: there was even a placard waving demonstration at the junction. I live near to the junction and remember that after the incident there was a definite reduction in the speed of traffic on the road, even the taxis seemed to respect the mood of the moment.
There were changes made to the junction, although I suspect that they were more to do with the numerous car smashes at the junction than they were about Gaby Bouwer. The changes were more about traffic flow than safety and the underlying cause of Gaby’s death have been mainly ignored- namely stupid, irresponsible driving- and it is not just a disease reserved for the taxi drivers.
It is true that the traffic slowed down, however, it was only a matter of weeks before the mad rush had resumed: the statute of limitation had expired on caring. Gaby’s death was tragic enough, that it didn’t have an effect on the attitudes of supposedly normal people makes the tragedy double.
This was no longer just about officials telling us that speed kills here was actual evidence. One of our young, bright talents had had her life taken from her for what- so that a taxi could get a few extra fares; so that someone could be in Fish Hoek 30 seconds quicker? I cannot accept that that is all the value that we can attribute to Gaby’s life.
When did it become that driving a vehicle stopped being a privilege, something that carries a weight of responsibility?
There is no excuse for bad driving. Speeding is as much against the law as shooting someone, and as was proved last year, just as likely to cause death. Official statistics show that in the last decade more than 13,000 people have been killed on the roads of the Western Cape. The 2001 census shows the population of Fish Hoek as being just short of 10,000!
Sit and think about your own actions for a second. If you speed, or drive recklessly, I will guarantee that you can justify it to yourself. I will bet that right now you are thinking, “yes, all those other people who speed are a danger, and maybe I should slow down, but (insert your own response from the following list- “my car is a very safe model made for going fast,” “I am an excellent driver with many years of experience,” “my reactions are excellent,” “I have to get to very important meetings,” “time is money,” “I can’t be late for work again, I might get fired,” and many more like this).”
Well unfortunately none of these things is acceptable, what of all the things on that list, or any that are not on this list is worth the life of one other human being. Imagine right now that you had to sit in front of someone’s parents and explain to them the reason why you were speeding when you hit their child and killed them. How would you feel if someone was sat in front of you telling you that the reason that you can no longer hold your child is something as pathetic as being late for a meeting, which probably isn’t important anyway?
Am I being harsh? Ask Gaby Bouwer’s parents that question and I doubt you will get much sympathy.
And what makes this whole situation even worse is that I see the traffic on a morning on Kommetjie Road during the school run. This is when the road seems to be at its worst. People are driving there cars like idiots as well as being unnecessarily aggressive towards other drivers, with their children sat watching them. Children learn most of their adult behavior from their parents, so what is the next generation going to be like.
When you speed, don’t halt at stop streets, jump red lights, use your phone in the car or commit any other such traffic offences you are making a conscious effort to break the law. This is no casual decision based on whether you feel you will get caught or not. You are making your own decision on whether you feel that a law is applicable to you or not. As the basis for a society this is not a good thing. If someone breaks into your home and steals from you they are doing the same thing- it is therefore simple logic that you are no different to them, in fact you are worse because statistically your actions are far more likely to cause the death of someone else!
What hurts me most is that someone is killed, we know this is wrong, we know that all that I have just said is true, and yet we still carry on- sticking our heads in a bucket of sand- what is it going to take?
It was Friedrich Nietzsche who stated that “fear is the mother of morality” and it seems that this was never truer than it is today.
It is my opinion that the only way to make our roads safer is to have draconian measures in place to deal with offenders. You need to fear the consequences of your actions. Why is it as easy to pay a traffic fine as it is to pay the rates bill? At the very least traffic offenders should have to pay their fines at a police station, and spend a lot of time sitting around waiting to do that. Then, when the officer deems that you have wasted enough of your time they should sit you in an office and lecture you about why your actions are wrong, after which you should have to pay a fine that is painful to pay. In my opinion a fine is too light a concern, community service should be the minimum, something like collecting rubbish from the side of the road whilst wearing a bright pink jump suit would be great.
Further more, speeding cameras should be sprouting like mushrooms, because here’s the thing- nobody admits to being a bad driver, but everybody hates speed cameras and traffic cops. There have been many articles and letters in the local newspapers berating local law enforcement for hiding in bushes to “catch out unsuspecting motorists.” This wouldn’t matter if we were all obeying the law.
I hope that we are still holding onto the last thread of our humanity (I am a fatal believer in the deeper good in human nature, which means that I am constantly disappointed with my fellow man) because I will not accept that something as tragic as Gaby’s death has no effect on our consciences. Take some pride in your driving, if you are not sure what good driving is then take a few lessons with a qualified instructor, there really is no shame in it.
Lets be a community about this and send some kind of a meaningful message to Gaby’s family and friends, that we do care and that her death has an effect on us, because to deny ourselves this basic level of empathy is to finally admit that we are selfish sociopaths who are no better than any common criminal who is resident in Pollsmoor.
To Gaby Bouwer- may you rest in peace but never be forgotten.

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