There is absolutely no good news on the road safety front. This is evident from the official Easter road death toll revealed by the Minister of Transport Dipuo Peters at a press conference yesterday (Wednesday April 8th).
The total number of crashes over the Easter weekend was 208 resulting in 287 fatalities. This is a huge 48,7% increase in fatalities over last year’s figures for the same period when 148 crashes resulted in 193 deaths. There was no segmentation given of trucks versus cars.
According to the Minister, the major factors that contributed to the road fatalities include alcohol and substance abuse; reckless and negligent driving; unroadworthy vehicles; overtaking on blind rises, barrier lines and in areas of poor visibility; a total disregard for the rules of the road and driver fatigue.
Obviously referring to pedestrian deaths, she cited the main reasons as being informal settlements situated alongside busy roads and intersections, walking on and crossing of highways and the failure to wear visible clothing at night.
On this point, there was a16% reduction in pedestrian fatalities compared to last December statistics. Driver and passenger figures accounted for 76% as opposed to the 63% figure during the past festive season. Over this past Easter weekend, 48% of the deaths were passengers, 28% drivers, 20% pedestrians, 2% cyclists and the other 2% is unknown.
In terms of times of the day, 37% of crashes occurred between 18h00 and 24h00 while 25% happened between 12h00 midday to 18h00. A total of 62% occurred between 12h00 to 24h00 as opposed to the usual pattern of crashes happening between 22h00 and 06h00.
Commenting on the figures, Minister Peters said: “We can no longer afford to bring this untold misery and suffering to innocent families. We can no longer afford to be a nation of orphans, widows and widowers. We can no longer afford to bring this untold strain to our economy, health and social services. Indeed, we cannot be at peace with ourselves when we fail to take responsibility and unanimously declare that enough is enough.”
In terms of the way ahead, the Minister said stringent and robust measures will be put in place to stop these carnages. “We will be upscaling co-ordination between all spheres of government in so far as law enforcement is concerned. We should be found at each and every cornet to preserve the lives of our people,”
She added that corruption at all driver learner testing centres as well as in the law enforcement fraternity will be rooted out and that driver training will be upskilled. Quite rightfully, she also hit out at the drivers on our roads saying that “it is the intransigent human conduct that is responsible for mowing our people to death.”
FleetWatch attended the press conference and while we use this story to alert our readers to the facts as given by the Minister, we came away convinced that now, more than ever before, a dedicated Ministry of Road Safety headed by either a Minister of Road Safety or a Director-General of Road Safety should be formed.
The current efforts are just not working and the whole issue needs to be raised to a higher level. Although I feel for the Minister’s efforts to improve the situation, there is not much I heard that convinced me that big change is in the air. More of this later……