Enforcement authorities should move their emphasis from speed to moving violations in order to reduce fatalities and cut the cost of crashes in South Africa.
This is the view of the Automobile Association which cited the huge rise in crash costs since 1998. “Crashes cost the country R42.5 billion in 1998, rising to over R300 billion last year. This rise far outstripped inflation. “Over the same period, traffic fatalities rose from 9 068 in 1998 to probably at least 15 000 last year, although the real death toll is currently unknown - government has not released annual death tolls since 2011.” The focus of enforcement had long been on prosecuting speeding offences, but this did not seem to be generating safety and financial returns.
“We have been saturated with 'speed kills' messaging since the start of the Arrive Alive campaign in 1997, but where are the results?” The AA asked.
International road safety leaders such as the USA and United Kingdom had achieved their position due to enforcement of basic road safety rules which were often disregarded in South Africa. “Speed prosecution is warranted when a motorist's speed is inappropriate for the circumstances, but we don't support the blanket statement 'speed kills' because there is little evidence to support it. What kills is dangerous driving.”
Take the example of buses, which have the highest fatality rate of the major vehicle types despite their low top speeds. The 'speed kills' argument is inadequate to explain South Africa's poor bus safety record. The problem is dangerous and incompetent driving which doesn't require high speed to be fatal. The AA singled out several areas for better enforcement, including illegal licences, dangerous overtaking, following too closely, roadworthiness, traffic light violations, and safety checks before manoeuvering.
The AA said it believed an emphasis on moving violations could reduce traffic fatalities and costs in South Africa by a quarter to a half, possibly saving the country more than R150 billion a year. It said the cash-strapped positions of many municipalities forced them into prosecution strategies in which revenue took priority over safety, and a re-think was needed for the sake of the country as a whole. If we can reduce moving violations, crash costs will drop and there will be more revenue in the fiscus, some of which could be used to assist municipalities.
Speed prosecution had not achieved the anticipated safety results and had merely become a revenue generator. The AA called on the Road Traffic Management Corporation to review its guidelines on enforcement to ensure that the first priority was safety. “South Africa cannot claim to care for its citizens if it prioritises revenue generation over their safety,” The AA concluded.