It is a sad reality that the saying ‘one bad apple spoils the whole bunch’ applies to the cops in South Africa. I say sad because there are so many good cops out there on the roads who are totally dedicated to doing a great job yet seldom get the recognition they deserve due to the ones who don’t give a hoot. This story is about such a cop – and his wife Mariette.
Linking South Africa’s landlocked provinces to KwaZulu Natal’s harbour in Durban, the N3 Toll Route carries a constant stream of traffic with large volumes of freight moving daily along this national route. On weekends and peak holiday seasons – such as this Easter period – traffic increases as travellers make their way to the many superb holiday destinations accessible from the Route.
N3 Toll Concession (N3TC) manages and operates the N3 Toll Route between Cedara near Hilton in KwaZulu-Natal and Heidelberg in Gauteng. N3TC is committed to providing a well maintained road and pleasant travel experience to all road users. Every effort is made through engineering, education, law enforcement and traffic management to facilitate safe and convenient journeys. It follows that the sheer volume of traffic along this route has to be closely monitored and managed to ensure the orderly and safe movement of people and goods.
“In this endeavour, N3TC relies on various partners along the route to extend our ability to provide a world class transport corridor,” say N3TC’s marketing manager, Andrea Visser. Enter Dave Steele – RTI Station Commander for the Ladysmith District and one of the heroes of this route.
Dave is well-known along the N3 for his positive outlook, leadership, organisational skills and commitment. Since joining the traffic police as a rookie 29 years ago in 1985, Dave has selflessly given his time and effort to ensure a high standard of law enforcement, traffic- and accident scene management.
Yashik Tharachand of Sharaj Emergency Medical Services says: “I am always pleased when Dave Steele is in charge of an accident scene. It is well organised, efficient and there is no confusion.”
Dave is a strong proponent of visible policing and sets the example by being out on the road himself as much as he can. “It is one of the most effective weapons that traffic departments have. During a safety campaign a few years ago, traffic officers on night shift enforced barrier line infringements. There was a 60% reduction in night-time accidents during that period.”
For Dave, this is not a job. It is a lifestyle and his passion. He is at work by 05:45 and many weekends are spent on the road. Holiday times are hectic and every effort is made to keep traffic flowing despite congestion at peak times. Accidents happen and often at night time too which means he seldom switches off. “I take my role of keeping the road safe and traffic flowing seriously. The economy stands still when the road (N3) is closed.”
Early on in their marriage, Dave’s wife Mariette realised just how deep Dave’s passion for his job runs when a huge accident on their wedding anniversary caused their plans to be cancelled. She decided to be completely flexible and find a way of supporting him in the work he does.
Mariette started tagging along to accident scenes and realised there was a need to provide support and care for those involved in a crash. She began handing out teddy bears, blankets and biscuits and this developed into an initiative now known as Angels in Motion. Through her initiative, Mariette and her team provides a support system to families and victims of crashes who require assistance.
Angels in Motion takes care of all the requirements crash victims may have – from making them comfortable and safe to assistance with communication, hospitalisation and accommodation. Mariette also qualified as a paramedic and trauma counsellor.
During the devastating snow storm in the Van Reenen’s Pass area in 2012, Dave and Mariette sprang into action with their respective teams to address the immediate needs of everyone affected along the N3 Toll Route. Dave managed to clear the area for traffic a full 36 hours ahead of any other area in the country.
While Dave and his team were working tirelessly in dire circumstances, Mariette and her team sprang into action too. Local hospitals, medical personnel, animal rescue centres and B&B’s were contacted to bring stranded travellers and their pets to safety. Medicines, baby food, nappies, blankets and more were collected to have ready when needed.
“Making and maintaining connections is an important task. Dave and Mariette do a sterling job in this regard. With their help, N3TC is able to offer its road users care and security at times when they need it most,” says Visser. “We salute the Steele’s.”