Festive Season road deaths up

The number of road deaths over the festive season has increased year on year, raising concerns over road safety, although the Eastern Cape showed a decline in fatalities.

Road fatality statistics released by Transport Minister Dipuo Peters in Midrand today revealed that 1714 people died on South African roads between 1 December 2016 and 9 January 2017. Over the same period last year 1629 people died on the country’s roads, meaning this year’s figures show a four percent increase.

Peters said contributing factors to the road accidents were human factors, vehicle factors, as well as road and environmental factors.

“We have come from one of the most challenging festive seasons which stretched our resources to the limit, which also put a strain on our law enforcement operations and unleashed untold misery on many families,” she said.

Road fatalities by province

Limpopo recorded the highest increase, with 244 fatalities compared to the previous period where 186 fatalities were recorded.

The Eastern Cape recorded the biggest decline in fatalities with 211 deaths recorded which is a decline compared to the same period last year when it had 265 fatalities.

“What is alarming is that four provinces, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, Eastern Cape and Limpopo jointly accounted for 61% of the total number of people who died on the roads in this period.

“This year we have seen a high number of passengers dying on the roads compared to the previous period when pedestrians constituted a high number of fatalities among road user groups,” Minister Peters said.

The North West recorded 8% in fatalities, while the Western Cape figures stood at 6% and the Northern Cape at 5%.

Passengers constituted 40% of fatalities, pedestrians 34%, drivers 24% and cyclists 2%. Children aged from zero to age four contributed to 6% of pedestrian deaths.

Drivers incompetent

Peters said the fact that an overwhelming majority of fatal crashes were as a result of a single motor vehicle overturning and head-on collisions points to the incompetence of drivers to handle their motor vehicles.

“There is an influx on our roads of drivers who are not competent and qualified to be driving on our roads.

“I have instructed the Road Traffic Management Corporation to undertake an audit of how driving licenses as well as road safety certificates are processed and issued in our testing stations, so that we can have an appreciation of how it is possible that so many incompetent drivers and unroadworthy vehicles could be on our roads,” Minister Peters said.

On the basis of the findings, it is expected that affected individuals will be called back for re-evaluation.

Lack of road safety strategy

“The increase in road deaths is cause for great concern and points to the lack of a proper road safety strategy to deal with the carnage,” said the Automobile Association (AA).

“On the surface, this increase may appear to be nominal, but the reality is that the number is neither stabilising nor, more importantly, coming down. More concerning is that the Department of Transport, and the Minister, are saying the same things this year as they did last year, and the situation is not getting any better,” the AA said.

The Association also pointed to the various indaba’s and forums held throughout the year, significantly the Traffic Officers Indaba in Durban from 5 to 9 December 2016, which appear to have had no noticeable impact on the fatality statistics.

“Hosting a road safety indaba so late in the year has proven to be fruitless; the results speak for themselves. Despite the many apparent road safety education and awareness campaigns throughout the year, that the minister referenced in here speech as a success, there has been no impact on the death toll at all. It is time that more drastic action is taken to address this situation,” the AA noted.

The AA also expressed concern that the preliminary figures announced today may increase, as they did last year, further adding to the number of deaths.

“What is particularly dismaying about the 2017 numbers is the steep increase in the number of passengers who died,” the AA said.

Fines not enough

“Another concern is that the number of cars stopped, and fines issued, during this period are as high as they are. According to the AA this should be standard procedure and not limited to special times of the year, such as festive holiday seasons.”

According to the minister, traffic law enforcement officers conducted more than 400 roadblocks throughout the country during this festive season period, issuing 453 263 fines for various traffic offences.

Of particular interest is that 28 238 of these fines were for drivers who failed to wear their seatbelts, while 4 046 were for using cellphones while driving.

A further 6 805 unroadworthy vehicles were suspended or discontinued while 2 501 other motor vehicles were impounded.

Officers arrested 9 175 motorists and 5 943 of them were held for drunken driving.

A total of 18 drivers were arrested for driving at excessive speeds of between 182km/h to above 200km/h

The Association noted that the cars could have been stopped and many removed from the roads months ago, and that a more impressive figure would have been if drivers had been stopped for moving violations such as reckless and negligent driving.

“The numbers are horrific. As we noted in December they are indicative of a lack of mutual respect amongst motorists for their own, and other drivers’ lives. While this situation needs to change, and change quickly, it is also incumbent upon the authorities to not only talk about saving lives, but put in place proper, implementable strategies to deal with this,” said the AA.