/ 16 January 2012

Holiday death toll lies at 1 475

At least 1 475 people were killed on South Africa’s roads during the festive season, Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele said on Monday.

According to preliminary figures from the Road Traffic Management Corporation for the period from December 1 last year to January 10, there were 1 230 fatal crashes, in which 1 475 people were killed.

“The most common causes of the crashes during the 2011/2012 festive period include speeding in unfriendly weather conditions, reckless and inconsiderate driving and abuse of alcohol by drivers and pedestrians,” Ndebele told reporters in Pretoria.

“The non-wearing of seatbelts has been found to be a major contributor to fatalities or serious injuries. Emergency services personnel can testify that far too many people have been killed due to not buckling up.”

Other contributors included fatigue, especially among public passenger transport drivers, lack of vehicle fitness and pedestrian negligence.

Last year (2010/11), the number of fatalities eventually totalled 1 704.

Of the 1 230 fatal crashes recorded, KwaZulu-Natal once again had the most, at 256, followed by Gauteng at 207 and the Eastern Cape with 156.

Safer roads
The international practice of taking into account all those who died within 30 days of an accident had been implemented. This used to be seven days.

However, Automobile Association spokesperson Gary Ronald warned the final figure, expected to be released in a month, “could very well exceed that of last year’s 1 704 fatalities”.

“We are devastated at the high death toll as it shows that the government is not taking proper action to keep the public safe on the roads. The question we are asking is what did not happen last year and, more importantly, how to change that in 2012.”

Ndebele said: “A great deal of work must still be done, in line with the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety. Key to this campaign is the critical pillars of safer roads, safer vehicles and safer road users.”

Ronald said the “Decade of Action” campaign had a simple and easily implementable strategy, but there was no plan and therefore no implementation.

“What we need is implementation of the strategy other than a purely law enforcement focus.”

Ronald urged drivers to exercise extra caution on the roads and to regularly maintain their vehicles.

Various offences
“As a driver there are several things that you can do to guarantee your own safety. Check your vehicle. Anything that is broken, worn or past its sell-by-date, fix or replace.”

Ndebele said from December 1 2011 to January 8 2012, more than 1.5-million vehicles and drivers were stopped and checked and 526 735 fines issued for various offences. A total of 6 084 unroadworthy vehicles were discontinued from use.

Officers arrested 13 439 drivers for offences including not being in possession of valid driving licences, false documentation, drunk driving and reckless or negligent driving.

“These 13 439 drivers risk being without a driving licence. We are going all out to ensure that dangerous drivers are removed from the roads.”

The South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) said the behaviour of public transport drivers, especially taxi drivers, had improved significantly.

“Two years ago our drivers were regarded as the worst but now I can assure you that when we started Operation Hlokomela we have contributed to reducing road carnage,” secretary general Philip Taaibosch said. The much-lauded campaign aimed to make it safer for people to use public transport.

More to be done
More than 40 people die on South African roads every day and for this number to decrease a major shift in road safety is needed, Ndebele said.

The country had an enormous road of around 750 000km manned by approximately 17 000 traffic officers, he said.

The African Christian Democratic Party on Monday called for close monitoring of all public transport vehicles and the removal from the road of unworthy ones.

“While we welcome the decrease in the death toll from the previous year; we nevertheless believe more still needs to be done,” party leader Kenneth Meshoe said in a statement.

He urged Ndebele to introduce harsher penalties for drunk drivers and those found ignoring the rules of the road. — Sapa