Since the beginning of December, 560 people have been killed on South African roads — mostly due to drunken driving, driver fatigue and speeding. At about the same time last year, 726 road deaths had been reported. Road accidents have also decreased, from 619 up to this time in December 2004 to 466 thus far.
Department of Transport spokesperson Collen Msibi told the Mail & Guardian Online that 251 of this month’s fatalities were pedestrians walking on the road at night or trying to cross a road while inebriated.
Msibi said law enforcement has been intensified, with more than 9 000 traffic officers deployed all over the country, supported by the South African Police Service and the South African National Defence Force.
”There will be roadblocks and traffic officers will patrol. All actions are intensified during December, especially on the roads that are considered the most dangerous.”
The Department of Transport has named 84 roads that are considered the most dangerous in South Africa. The N1 between Sandton and Pretoria tops the list, with the N12 between Boksburg and Daveyton and the N3 between Bedford and Hazyview following closely behind.
”These are the roads where most of the violations happen. It covers 10 000km of road in total. The N1 between Sandton and Pretoria is considered the most dangerous since, in a space of 10km, 48 deadly accidents happened since 2001,” said Msibi.
”We must raise more awareness. People are now driving to their holiday destinations at night. This is very worrying and of a great concern. We are trying everything to decrease the amount of fatalities, but we ask the people to meet us halfway. That doesn’t happen yet: 55% of the road accidents happen because of the driver’s attitude [drivers being too aggressive].”
Gauteng is the leading province in terms of accidents. So far, 119 fatalities have been recorded.
Next Wednesday, the Department of Transport will announce the number of people who have been stopped and arrested for drunken driving. In KwaZulu-Natal, only 200 people have been arrested for drunken driving in December so far.
Business Day on Monday wrote: ”The annual report of the Financial and Fiscal Commission found that 35% of surfaced roads throughout South Africa were in a ‘poor to very poor’ state.” Msibi told the M&G Online that he had not seen the report yet, but that ”the conditions of the roads don’t have anything to do with the accidents. It is about drunken driving and speeding.”
One of the worst accidents of the month thus far happened on Saturday, when seven children and 14 adults were killed after the bus in which they were travelling overturned and plunged into a river near Wepener in the Free State. The driver of the bus lost control of the vehicle, smashed through barriers and plunged into a river.
On Sunday, three people were killed in an accident in the North West, when two vehicles collided head-on near the Kalgold Mine. In the Eastern Cape, two people were killed when the taxi they were travelling in overturned on the R61 between Beaufort West and Aberdeen.
In the Western Cape, six minibus-taxi passengers were killed and nine injured on Sunday when the taxi collided with a truck. A motorist died in Limpopo when his car veered off a highway and hit a brick wall along the N1 near the Naboomspruit off-ramp.
Msibi had not heard of an increase in reported cases of police corruption.
”Of course, corruption comes with a heavy penalty. Those officers will lose their job.”
To report corruption among police and traffic officers, motorists can phone the toll-free anti-corruption hotline: Tel: 0800 701 701