Preliminary statistics on the Easter road fatalities released by Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi in Pretoria last week are cause for great concern and may, when the final numbers are in, be the highest Easter death toll to date.
This is according to the Automobile Association (AA) which views the numbers as a sad indictment on road traffic safety and enforcement initiatives and calls on both the government and driving public to take serious stock of what these numbers mean.
“Last year’s preliminary figures, released shortly after the Easter period of 2016, indicated 156 deaths on our roads over the period. However, when the 30-day waiting period was over – which is customary when calculating final numbers – the fatalities rose by 57% to 245. If the same applies this year, the final figure may be as high as 370 fatalities. Apart from being deeply concerning, it is also totally unacceptable,” the AA notes.
According to the statistics, 235 people died on the country’s roads between 13 April and 17 April, an increase of 51% on 2016.
“We’ve said it many times before and we will continue saying that not enough is being done to stop the carnage on our roads. Year-in and year-out we are given statistics that either stay marginally similar to the previous years’ figures or sadly, are increasing. And, while much is being said about how to turn this situation around, it appears these efforts are at best, slow to materialise and at worst, ineffective,” the Association says.
One major issue, according to the AA, is the continuing problems associated with people buying driving licences, instead of earning them, and with the issuing of fraudulent roadworthy certificates for vehicles which should not be on the road.
While this was touched on at last week’s press briefing, the AA is concerned that this has been an on-going discussion and efforts are taking far too long to resolve. It called upon the Department of Transport and the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), which is spearheading investigations into the matter, to make more resources available to deal with the problem. In addition, more effective policing, along with visible consequences for bad driving, are needed to begin to address the issues.
“Too often metropolitan police officers are targeting motorists for expired licence discs which, quite frankly, is never going to lead to a reduction of road deaths. These officers need to be deployed on the roads monitoring moving violations such as reckless and negligent driving. It’s not the cure-all, but it’s at least a start – and it needs to start now,” says the AA.
The Association notes that unless serious and drastic measures to deal with road behaviour in the country are taken urgently, the road death statistics will neither stabilise nor improve year-on-year and that the message to South African motorists is that road safety is not a priority.
“One of the first steps needed now is for the Department of Transport, the RTMC, provincial road traffic authorities and NGOs involved in road safety – including the AA – to begin looking at how this situation can be turned around for the festive period at the end of the year. Unless proper implementable plans are formulated and put in motion now, we fear a repeat of these, and last year’s numbers, is inevitable,” the AA concludes.
The Automobile Association notes that unless serious and drastic measures to deal with road behaviour in the country are taken urgently, the road death statistics will neither stabilise nor improve year-on-year and that the message to South African motorists is that road safety is not a priority.