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Treat pedestrians as vulnerable

08 April 2014: 

Just 18% of South Africans have a driving licence. This; from the Automobile Association, which has compared the population data for 2011 to the number of driving licences in circulation for the same year.

“According to the 2011 census, South Africa's total population was 51 770 560,” said the AA. “In the same year, according to the Road Traffic Management Corporation, 9 350 889 driving licences were in circulation. That means that only 18% of South Africans have a driving licence!”

Between 35% and 40% of annual fatalities on SA roads were pedestrians, and the low percentage of licensed drivers in South Africa could be one of the contributing factors to this ongoing problem. 

The AA said that properly licensed drivers have demonstrated, via a test, that they have grasped the basics of traffic law and safe road use. But 82% of South Africans have never shown this standard, which affects their safety as pedestrians, unlike in many developed countries where the majority of the adult population has a driving licence and understands safe road use thoroughly.

The concept of the dangers posed by vehicles is more likely to be lacking in unlicensed road users, and pedestrians may cross roads without checking because they've never been taught the importance of doing so. Pedestrians without road safety training are less likely to understand the risks of consuming alcohol before road use, and past South African data has shown that the drinking rate for pedestrians is up to seven times higher than for drivers.

“As drivers, we tend not to realise that most other road users have not reached any formal standard of road safety knowledge,” the AA commented. “This can create considerable danger when driving through areas of high pedestrian activity where few people have adequate knowledge to avoid conflict with traffic.”

The AA said the answer was for drivers to adapt their driving to compensate by observing pedestrians sooner, selecting a lane which kept them further away from pedestrian activity on pavements and reducing speed at night or when travelling through pedestrian high-risk areas.

“As drivers, we are in a skilled minority of 18%. The majority of road users are unskilled. We have to treat pedestrians as vulnerable road users when we drive.”

Automobile Association of South Africa (AA)
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