The number of potholes and damaged road signs, which all too often ‘decorate’ our roads in fear-evoking fashion, might not be an accurate measure of road safety levels (or more accurately, the lack thereof) in South Africa. Statistics on road safety, report on the number of fatalities and injuries that occur involving pedestrians and motorists while making their way towards a desired destination. Sadly, some road users are not as fortunate to reach these destinations free from harm or loss even… ☹
Road accidents abruptly and inconveniently pull the brakes on holiday plans, business trips and even general commute, but also pose a fatal threat to the lives of innocent people. Over the past decade, our South African roads have claimed the lives of 134 000 people. If this doesn’t shock you into buckling up, the stats and information that follow will (hopefully) have you steering in the direction of more caution.
Why the high mortality rate on SA roads?
Reckless speeding, drunken drivers, and inattentive pedestrians crossing busy roads, are just a few culprits for the carnage on our roads – and even more so over the festive season. A total of 767 people have paid with their lives on SA roads over the December 2018/January 2019 festive period – 16% more than the previous year.
While drunk-driving was identified as leading cause of road accidents, other prevalent violations on the roads included reckless and negligent driving. Department of Transport spokesperson, Ishmael Mnisi, says that there are many incidents involving fatigued motorists and that unroadworthy vehicles cause “lethal” problems, especially during long-distance travel.
- KwaZulu-Natal appears to be the most dangerous province to drive in, with 162 recorded fatalities.
- There have been 125 deaths in Gauteng; 89 in both Eastern Cape and Limpopo, respectively; 82 in Mpumalanga; 81 in the Western Cape; 78 in the Free State; and 57 in North West.
- The Northern Cape has seen least fatalities (24) but is responsible for the highest increase in fatal collisions (71%).
- Free State (+53%) and KZN (+46%) have also seen some of the sharpest increases in road deaths.
- Human error is blamed for 86% of all incidents, with road and vehicle faults accounting for less than one in seven traffic collisions.
- A total of 34 minibus taxis were involved in fatal accidents.
- Meanwhile, trucks are even more dangerous, accounting for 44 collisions.
- There were 10 666 fines issued to drivers who did not have licenses, whereas 9 620 were for drivers who didn’t fasten their seatbelts.
What’s the solution to reducing road fatalities during 2019?
The Automobile Association of South Africa (AASA) appealed for a new approach as current road safety programmes haven’t been effective. They highlighted that there should be a drastic change in the attitude of drivers. “Prevention is better than cure,” says the AASA, and the first drive is all about that – creating a safer environment, which includes improved road safety and education.
Furthermore, the laws should be enforced without exception and the Administration Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences AARTO bill, fully implemented. The AARTO bill consists of a demerit system for drivers, who lose points for traffic offences, which could ultimately result in the revoking of a driver’s licence. Each driver starts off with a clean slate of zero penalty points and if 12 or more points are reached, his/her licence will be suspended for 3 months.
The new bill was signed in September 2019 by president Cyril Ramaphosa and will be implemented once the law has been gazetted with a commencement date. Hopefully, it will save lives and promote safer driving, despite criticism that it might have loopholes.
Equipped with an understanding of the intent behind this new bill, we can all contribute more actively towards safer roads and ultimately, less fatalities from road accidents. Let’s steer South Africa in the right direction. “The road to success is always under construction” (Steve Maraboli), but in taking ownership of the responsibility we have towards each other, we can pave the way to safer roads in our beautiful country.
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