Pedestrian deaths up but road fatalities down over Easter

At least 35% of the people who died on the roads over the Easter long weekend were pedestrians, according to Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula – who described the statistic as “disturbing” on Thursday while releasing the 2021 Easter Arrive Alive Safety statistics at the Grasmere Toll Plaza in Gauteng. 

But, he countered, there had been a decline in the nationwide road death toll for the same period, and this should be applauded. 

“The carnage we continue to experience on our roads is influenced by a number of factors, mostly embedded in human behaviour or attitude, [also] vehicle factors, as well as environment or road factors.”

According to the statistics, no fatalities were recorded on Thursday, 1 April when traffic volumes reached their peak as many road users travelled to their destinations. 

But this number increased dramatically on Friday evening between 6pm and 10pm when alcohol consumption increased. 

Preliminary figures show 189 crashes recorded, resulting in 235 fatalities nationwide, between 2 April and 5 April. 

The 2021 statistics were compared with the 2019 Easter statistics, in which 193 crashes and 260 fatalities were recorded. 

“We have not taken the 2020 figures into consideration because that was an abnormal period characterised by a hard lockdown that restricted interprovincial travel and movement between districts,” Mbalula explained. 

Against the 2019 backdrop, the number of crashes in 2021 under level one lockdown restrictions reduced by 2.1% while fatalities decreased by 9.6%.

The Northern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and North West recorded increases in fatalities while all other provinces showed a decline. 

KwaZulu-Natal recorded the most road fatalities at 54, followed by Gauteng’s 36, Limpopo’s 34, and the Western Cape’s 26. 

Mbalula said he noted with deep concern the increase in the number of pedestrians who died on the roads, when compared to 2019, adding that they had increased from 30% to 35% of the total fatalities on the road. 

“We have observed that about 6% of pedestrian fatal crashes occurred between midnight and 02:00 in the morning when people were moving around in violation of the Covid-19 curfew.”

The minister added that the “vulnerability” of pedestrians “manifests itself when drinking and walking, including jaywalking, [or] crossing the road at dangerous points and informal settlements situated alongside busy roads and intersections.”

In contrast, passenger fatalities declined from 38% to 34% of the total.

“The figures for this past Easter long weekend indicate that our efforts in law enforcement are yielding some positive results. The decline in both crashes and fatalities recorded is an indication that we are making progress towards achieving the 2030 global target of reducing road fatalities by half,” Mbalula said. 

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Eunice Stoltz
Eunice Stoltz is a junior daily news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She was previously a freelance journalist and a broadcaster at Maroela Media and Smile90.4FM.

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