As I write this, the outcome of the elections is not yet known. However, whatever the outcome, it is imperative that South Africans enter into a new era where they hold politicians accountable for their actions.
It is generally accepted that politicians have gone their own routes over the past years without taking the welfare of the electorate into account. Hidden agendas, corruption and self-vested interests have dominated the political scene and this has to stop. Your vote was one step but it must not end there. You must now hold politicians accountable – as public servants – which brings me to the point of this story.
Prior to the elections, FleetWatch received a statement from the Automobile Association headed: ‘Will road safety and infrastructure get the attention it deserves’. The sub-head asked: “Ahead of elections, is road safety a priority on party agendas?”
I’m not sure about you, but I never once heard any politician accenting an improvement in road safety as a high priority in their pre-election promises. I found this most surprising as compared to the Marikana massacre where 44 people were killed, an average of 43 people die on our roads every day. The road carnage is an on-going massacre and as the AA states, one would therefore have expected road safety to be high on the campaigning parties’ agendas “but their manifestos do not reflect this as a priority”.
Some parties, like the Economic Freedom Fighters, used the Marikana massacre in their election campaigns but not one promised to halt the roads massacre that takes place on a daily basis. And this despite the fact that South Africa has a road traffic fatality rate that ranks higher than the global average.
Furthermore, as the AA points out, the International Transport Forum’s 2013 report on Road Safety estimated the economic cost of South Africa’s road crashes to be R307-billion each year, “which is taxpayers’ money that could be spent elsewhere to better the country”.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) 2013 report, 1.24 million people die each year around the world as a result of road traffic crashes. The findings of the report indicate that road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death among young people aged 15-29 years.
These numbers are frightening, considering that many of these crashes can be prevented. Did you hear any politician assure the young ‘Born Free’ voters that if elected, they will work tirelessly to ensure the future plans and dreams of South Africa’s ‘Born Frees’ will not be destroyed in horror road crashes? I didn’t!
While South Africa is a signatory of the United Nations Resolution on the Decade of Action, which aims to reduce road crashes by 50% until 2020, the AA states that little has been done to create change or prevent road deaths during the busiest times of the year as the number of crashes around Easter and the festive season is still unacceptably high.
“The long term effects of road crashes, fatal or otherwise, are devastating, as those who remain behind face a bleak future without a source of income sometimes. It is also important to note that crashes happen daily and are not confined to specific reasons. Law enforcement should take place throughout the year and not just at certain periods,” says the AA.
WHO suggests effective interventions such as designing safer infrastructure and incorporating road safety into land use and transport planning. However, according to the AA, despite there being several strategies from the various transport bodies in South Africa, there is still no policy framework for road safety in evidence.
“It is no secret that many of our provincial roads are not in a good condition which compromises road safety. It is therefore important that during the design phase of road construction, everyone in the construction value chain prioritises safety for every road they build taking into account vulnerable road users,” the AA says.
“Concerted effort is also needed to make road infrastructure safer for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists. Their needs must be taken into account when road safety policy, transport planning and land use decisions are being made. Improving the safety features of vehicles as well as post-crash care of victims of crashes is also key,” concludes the AA.
FleetWatch agrees on all of this. The question is: Are we going to let the post-election politicians continue as the pre-election politicians did? Are we going to let the annual 15 000 deaths on our roads continue to be viewed as a low priority on the political landscape?