By Chris Barry, MD of HCV Insurance
South Africa’s yoke of embarrassment on the roads – the R350-billion damage every year and the statistics of fatalities – will not improve if the authorities continue attempting to reverse the carnage through marketing campaigns and press releases that emerge around school holidays.
These campaigns simply reveal authorities that are paying lip service to really improving our shocking safety record, wasting money on advertising rather than on real, effective solutions that could reverse or even halt the thousands of deaths on our roads each year.
The first step is to replace political deploys with career road traffic management professionals who have chosen a vocation to make our roads safer, rather than a career in politics.
The next set of steps is to equip or finance the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL) with the tools they need to do their jobs – or at the very least the resources that they need to use the equipment that they have, properly:
- The use of cameras at tolling booths and randomly along highways to alert traffic enforcement officials of reckless and negligent driving.
- Take the occupants of the “mindless” law enforcement vehicles that sit under trees at remote locations and task them with observing and managing traffic monitored by these cameras.
- SANRAL should be given the mandate to manage vehicle overloading as part of their road management mandate.
- The toll system should track trucks, highlighting if they have traversed a route in both directions in one day. Flagging this could prevent driver fatigue.
- Average speed calculators could help identify and issue fines related to speed limit infringements.
SANRAL – or the government – may argue that they don’t have the resources to pay for these measures but I disagree: The current toll collection system and the structure of vehicle licensing should be more than sufficient to take real action to make our roads safer.
For example, at last count I paid R229 toll fees from Johannesburg to Durban (one way), a total R458 return. This is now a third of my immediate cost of petrol to Durban (return) for the trip. My point is this is not a “cheap” cost. It is not an afterthought cost or “doesn’t trigger on the mind cost because it is cheap”.
Another cost we’re compelled to pay are vehicle license fees which are – for a car – between R456 and R600 per annum.
If we were to impose compulsory third-party insurance of between R750 and R1 000 per year as some of our neighbouring countries have done, this would bring even more money into SANRAL’s coffers to put to some of the abovementioned good uses.
The government has avoided imposing the compulsory third-party insurance on all drivers as it maintains that this would be too costly for road users. However, if I license my car and drive to Durban and back, the license and toll costs on just that one trip are already more than what the third-party insurance would cost – that third-party insurance cost that would contribute to the interventions I’ve proposed that will reduce the loss of life and hopefully dent the billions that road accidents cost our economy each year.
What’s more, uninsured vehicle owners have far more to lose if they’re involved in an accident, as they would suffer multiple ‘hits’. These include the cost of being in the accident to start with, the cost of repairing their own vehicle, the cost of repairing the other vehicle if they caused the accident, not to mention any medical and lost income costs. These are often our poorest road users – the road users who are most in need of the support offered by a third-party insurance programme.
It becomes more and more clear that we can no longer plead that we cannot afford a third-party insurance programme in South Africa to fund practical interventions in road safety. If we are to survive on our roads, we can’t afford not to implement a well-managed private entity managed Third Party insurance programme.