Enforcement authorities should move their emphasis from speed to moving violations to reduce fatalities and cut the cost of crashes in South Africa. This is the view of the Automobile Association of South Africa (AA) which cites the huge rise in crash costs since 1998 as justification for such a move.
“In 1998, crashes cost the country R42.5-billion. This rose to over R300-billion last year. Over the same period, traffic fatalities rose from 9 068 in 1998 to at least 15 000 last year, although the real death toll is currently unknown. Government has not released annual death tolls since 2011.”
The AA says the focus of enforcement has long been on prosecuting speeding offences but this does not seem to be generating safety and financial returns. “We’ve been saturated with ‘speed kills’ messaging since the start of the Arrive Alive campaign in 1997 but where are the results?” asks the AA.
International road safety leaders such as the USA and United Kingdom have achieved their position due to enforcement of basic road safety rules which are often disregarded in South Africa.
“Speed prosecution is warranted when a motorist’s speed is inappropriate for the circumstances but we don’t support the blanket statement that ‘speed kills’ because there is little evidence to support it. What kills is dangerous driving.”
The example of buses, which have the highest fatality rate of the major vehicle types despite their low top speeds, is cited by the AA. “The ‘speed kills’ argument is inadequate to explain South Africa’s poor bus safety record. The problem is dangerous and incompetent driving which doesn’t require high speed to be fatal.”
The AA has singled out several areas for better enforcement, including illegal licences, dangerous overtaking, following distances, roadworthiness, traffic light violations and safety checks before manoeuvring.
The AA says it believes an emphasis on moving violations can reduce traffic fatalities and costs in South Africa by a quarter to a half, possibly saving the country more than R150-billion a year. It says the cash-strapped positions of many municipalities has forced them into prosecution strategies where revenue has taken priority over safety – and a re-think is needed for the sake of the country as a whole.
“If we can reduce moving violations, crash costs will drop and there will be more revenue in the fiscus, some of which could be used to assist municipalities,” the AA says.
Speed prosecution has not achieved the anticipated safety results and has merely become a revenue generator. The AA has called on the Road Traffic Management Corporation to review its guidelines on enforcement so as to ensure the first priority is safety.
“South Africa cannot claim to care for its citizens if it prioritises revenue generation over safety,” the AA concludes.