The 17% increase in road deaths since the start of December is worrying and dismaying and sends an early signal that the country’s festive road fatality numbers could be the worst in several years, according to the Automobile Association (AA). Earlier the Department of Transport (DoT) announced that 845 people have died on the country’s roads between 1 December and 19 December, a 17% increase on the same period last year.
“A breakdown of the figures is showing a trend: lack of inter-personal respect among motorists. Once again driver attitude is the cause of many of the fatal crashes; and it is a problem that appears to be getting worse, rather than better,” the AA lamented.
According to Transport Minister Dipuo Peters, who released the mid-month festive season assessment earlier today (SUBS:: 20 December 2016), human factors contributed 82% to fatal crashes while road and environmental factors (10%) and vehicle factors (8%) contributed the rest.
“ … we take exception and condemn in the strongest possible terms those who remain irresponsible and reckless on our roads. They continue to use our roads with disdain and with little regard to other law abiding road users. This uncaring attitude by these irresponsible and reckless road users led to the loss of innocent lives on our roads,” Minister Peters said.
She said there is a tendency by road users to ignore the call for road safety.
What is encouraging, the AA noted, was the Minister’s acknowledgement that drastic measures are needed to reign in the startling numbers. She said she would engage with the provinces to consider extending overtime payment for law enforcement officers, as well as intensifying law enforcement visibility.
“These are steps in the right direction and the Minister should be supported by every South African in this endeavour. However, while we are supportive of these, and other steps, the real proof of their success will be at the end of the festive period when the final numbers are announced. We are hopeful that these will make a difference, but we are concerned that they will be too late,” the AA said.
During her announcement, the Minister also mentioned pedestrians who account for 35% of the total number of fatalities. The AA said pedestrians needed to make themselves more visible, especially in poorly lit areas, to ensure their safety. It also warned motorists to be vigilant of inebriated pedestrians who posed a risk to themselves and drivers who don’t see them quickly enough to avoid them.
Apart from the fatalities, the AA noted that 2509 people were arrested for drunk driving in Gauteng alone during the period, another shocking statistic given the clear messages regarding alcohol use and driving prior to the festive season starting.
“It remains a cause of great anxiety and frustration for us, and many other organisations, including the government, that the dangers of drunk driving go unnoticed. Year after year the message is communicated, many times graphically, that driving and alcohol don’t mix. Yet, year after year, these messages are lost, yet another indication of the poor driver attitude inherent on our roads,” the AA concluded.