Justice Project South Africa has questioned the current media strategy being employed by the Road Traffic Management Corporation and the Department of Transport.
When the current festive season death toll showed signs of having dramatically grown over last year’s horrific carnage, the RTMC and Department of Transport suddenly stopped reporting the ongoing death toll, stating that they would do so “once it had been verified”. On 20 December 2015, it sent out a media release stating that it would only do so in January, after the festive season comes to an official end.
Whilst we readily acknowledge that road death tolls need to be verified and the United Nations best practices for reporting thereof need to be adhered to so as to accommodate those who pass away up to 30 days after a road crash, just because the preliminary death toll this year is apparently higher than last, and arguably the highest ever is no reason to employ an effective media blackout thereon.
It is arguable that whilst an ongoing tally of road deaths and injuries may not affect the behaviour of all road users, it is undeniable that it does have the effect of making some people more cautious than they would ordinarily be and any effective road safety campaign must employ every tool at its disposal.
Instead of communicating facts, the RTMC has chosen to engage in threats against motorists, some of which have been invalid since they would constitute unlawful arrest. It should be clear that this strategy is not having the desired effect, judging by some of the horrific crashes which have occurred this festive season and the lawlessness which prevails on our roads, not only over the festive season, but at any given time of the year. Consistent, ethical and ongoing traffic law enforcement, free of corruption and throughout the year is the only thing which will alter the way in which road users, not just motorists behave on our roads and a few shows of force at peak periods continues to have little effect.
The ongoing availability of “irregular” driving licences from corrupt officials which has been going on since 1998 and has not been addressed, even though officials have been aware of it since the SIU released its report thereon in 2002 and this too undoubtedly has an adverse effect on road safety.
What should be of even more concern than only road fatalities is the proportion of people who are injured in road crashes and there are lots of examples of crashes which have occurred where, while only one person has died but 15 or more have been injured.
The RTMC has not released a single comprehensive “Road Traffic Report” wherein road fatality statistics are reported, since 2011. That report dealt with road fatalities which occurred in the 2010/2011 calendar year, so effectively everyone including the RTMC and Department of Transport has been working and strategizing in the dark for almost five years now.
This is not the only example of the RTMC’s abandonment and/or non-achievement of its legislated functions. It has still not finalised the National Road Traffic Law Enforcement Code (NRTLEC) which should have been one of its first objectives as per Section 32 of the sixteen year old Road Traffic Management Corporation Act, No. 20 of 1999.
It would appear that neither the RTMC, nor the Minister and Department of Transport take road safety seriously since they are doing everything other than adopting internationally proven best practices. This is very sad for South Africa and for those have been and will be injured or killed in road crashes.
We would therefore have to agree with the Minister of Transport and the RTMC that “road safety is the responsibility of every road user”… mainly because the authorities are simply not doing what they should be doing.
JPSA urges all motorists to drive defensively and in the interests of self-preservation and protecting their family, friends and all other road users from the carnage that prevails and continues to get worse on our roads.