The BRICS countries including Brazil, Russia, India and China are regarded as the fastest growing and largest emerging market economies. South Africa’s inclusion has been seen as a strategic partnership centred mainly on economic cooperation and development and thereby provides South Africa with an opportunity to bench mark itself against a host of socio-economic issues, including that of road safety.
The issue was prioritised on a global scale in the United Nations 2010 resolution, calling for a Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011 – 2020. For the Automobile Association of South Africa (AA), the association with BRICS places the spotlight on South Africa to see how we compare in terms of basic road safety and the implementation thereof.
The 2013 World Health Organization (WHO)’s Global Status Report on Road Safety identified road traffic injuries as the eighth leading cause of death globally amongst young people between the age of 15 – 29 years. It estimates that more than one million people die on the world’s roads annually. The report projected that road traffic fatalities will be the fifth leading cause of death by 2030. It is against this backdrop that countries have had to rethink policy and legislative interventions to deal with this issue. Middle to low income countries, particularly on the African continent account for the majority of road fatalities.
The state of road-safety in South Africa has increasingly come under scrutiny as a result of the increasing number of road fatalities on our country’s roads. In 2011 the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) recorded number of 27.6 deaths per 100 000 inhabitants. The estimated economic cost of these accidents then was at around R307 billion each year. The International Transport Forum’s (ITF) Road Safety Annual Report released in 2013, ranked South Africa the worst out of 36 countries. The Department of Transport on 10 April 2014, released statistics putting the annual cost of road accidents at R14 billion each year on road accident victims. Annually about 14 000 lives are lost on South African roads.
Brazil has taken a multi-sectoral approach in addressing road safety. Various government departments and agencies have become involved. The country also introduced the “Lei Seca”, a dry law campaign aimed at combatting drunken driving. The programme was widely advertised publicly but it had initially not been adequately supported through systematic law enforcement. The government has since combined tough legislation with tougher policing and this has been effective, evidenced in fewer deaths and a change in attitude in motorists. In 2008 there were 18 deaths per 100 000 and this cost the state approximately 32 billion dollars annually. There has been a 32% decline since June 2010. “This approach of focusing on a particular aspect of road safety, as opposed to trying to tackle the full gambit of road safety issues to little effect, is something that South Africa could learn from,” said the AA.
According to the 2009 WHO statistics, Russia’s road fatalities were recorded at 23.4 for every 100 000 inhabitants. Road fatalities per 100 000 of registered vehicles were at 86.1. Between 2005 and 2010 the country saw a decline in the number of fatalities. Pedestrians accounted for the largest number of deaths at 37%, followed by drivers at 34%, and passengers at 28%. Although there has been an increase in the number of vehicles, the number of fatalities has decreased showing an improvement in Russia’s road safety performance. The improvement is attributed to a decrease in the number of pedestrian deaths. “We as the AA have always emphasized the importance of the safety of pedestrians on our roads as they are the largest segment of vulnerable road users,” said the AA.
In 2009, India was ranked by the WHO amongst the top five countries leading in road deaths. The country’s road fatalities were estimated at 9 per every 100 000 inhabitants and 145.4 per every 100 000 registered vehicles. Between 2004 and 2009 there was a marked increase in the number of fatalities at approximately 6% annually. India’s focus has been on reducing incidents of drunk driving by capacitating law enforcement officials and using social marketing campaigns. The government in collaboration with the World Bank introduced a road safety campaign in November 2010 to address the country’s high road fatalities and serious injuries. Unlike its Brazilian and Russian counterparts, India has not seen a reduction in road fatalities. This has largely been blamed on the fact that regulation around road offence is inadequately enforced.
China has in recent years seen the country’s roads increase with motorised vehicles; between 2005 and 2010 a number of cars on the road increased by 190%. Motorcyclists made up a large number of road fatalities at 27%; this was followed by pedestrians at 25% and bicyclists at 14%. The country has a national programme called National Road Safety Action Plan, which launched in 2008 with a goal of developing key supporting technologies and promoting applications for road transport safety. China has seen a downward trend in the number of road fatalities between 2005 and 2010.
With the exception of India; Brazil, China and the Russian Federation recorded a decrease in the number of road fatalities. South Africa, compared to the latter is also lagging behind in terms of reversing the trend. “It is evident from the statistics that South Africa still has a long way to go compared to its BRIC counterparts as more emphasis needs to be put on road safety. This should be a priority on government’s agenda,” says the AA.
“Without political push from governments to enforce the law and comprehensive strategies from all relevant departments the status quo will remain with little hope of changing the situation. The country’s strategic partnership with Brazil, Russia, India and China provides an opportunity for it to benchmark itself and apply what has worked, applicable for the South African context, especially if the country is to meet global targets set under the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety,” concludes the AA.