Apr

Road deaths increase by 51% over Easter period

2017-04-25 12:40
This is the scene of just one of the many crashes which occurred over the Easter period. In this one, where two taxis collided head-on, 18 people were left injured – some minor some serious. Seldom are the numbers relating to the injured released but this puts a huge drain on families and the economy.

Road fatalities over the Easter period increased this year by 51% over the same period last year with 235 fatalities this year compared to last year’s 156. This was revealed last week by Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi at a media conferecnce where he released the 2017 preliminary Easter road safety figures.

According to the Minister, fatalities increased in all provinces with the exception of the Free State which recorded a 27% decline in fatalities from 11 in 2016 to eight this year. Here’s how the other provinces fared:

  • Eastern Cape: A 17% increase in fatalities from 24 in 2016 to 27 this year.
  • Limpopo: A 30% increase in fatalities from 23 in 2016 to 30 this year.
  • Mpumalanga: A 33% increase in fatalities from 21 in 2016 to 28 this year.

The highest increases were recorded for the following provinces:

  • Northern Cape: An increase of 7 from 4 to11.
  • Kwa-Zulu Natal: An increase of 31 from 28 to 59.
  • Gauteng: an increase of 14 from 24 to 38.
  • Western Cape: an increase of 8 from 14 to 22; and
  • North West: an increase of 4 from 8 to 12

The statistics showed that people who died on the roads this past Easter were passengers at 50% followed by pedestrians at 24.5%, drivers at 19,8% and cyclists at 5.7%.

A total of 174 253 vehicles were stopped and checked with the intention of removing unroadworthy vehicles from the roads in all provinces. During this period, 61 340 motorists were charged with various offences including failing to wear seatbelts, the use of cell phones while driving, speeding and overloading. More than 2 800 motorists were arrested for drunken driving, inconsiderate, reckless and negligent driving, possession of false documents and driving without licences and public driver’s permits.

Seven motorists were detained for driving at excessive speeds above 160 km an hour in 120 km speed zones. These included a motorist who was arrested on the N6 in Reddersburg in the Free State driving at 227kph while another was caught driving at 225kph on the N1 in Pretoria.

“These are examples of the worst among the worst motorists who have no regard for road rules and the risk they pose to other motorists who obey the rules of the road,” said the Minister, adding that the human factor still remained a causal factor in most of the crashes over this period.

The Minister said that to ensure there are severe consequences for road rule offenders, the DoT was at an advanced stage in negotiations with the Department of Justice to finalise the introduction of minimum sentences for negligent and reckless driving.

“This is done to seek to reclassify drunken driving from a Schedule 3 – which is less severe – to a more severe Schedule 5 offence to ensure those who negligently cause crashes on the roads do not get bail easily and spend time behind bars.”

He also pointed out that the DoT published amendments to the National Road Traffic Regulations in November last year aimed at regulating the transportation of persons in the load bay of light delivery vehicles for reward. “The regulations will come into effect in May 2017 and assist in the reduction of the number of passengers dying in collisions,” he said.

“Equally important,” he added, “is that we have started a Parliamentary process led by the Portfolio Committee on Transport (PCoT) to extensively consult on the AARTO Amendment Bill which will introduce demerits intended to improve the conduct and behaviour of drivers on the roads. We call upon all relevant stakeholders to participate in making submissions to the PCoT.”

With due respects Mr Minister, the AARTO saga has been going on for years. How much more consulting is needed?  Most now regard it as a dead duck with little chance of implementation in the near – or far – future. Perhaps under your new watch especially since, as you pointed out, “the resources government spends unwittingly on accidents amounts to R147-billion annually, which is equal to 3.4% of the country’s GDP.  Over and above this figure, the Road Accident Fund spends R33-billion annually on payments of claims which could be redirected to other government priorities.”

More important, what is the cost of one life lost to a family? I contend it’s much more than those two figures combined. It’s actually priceless.

You described the Easter statistics as “grim”. Indeed they are. Perhaps under your watch, things can change.

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