In mid-January, the Minister of Transport Dipuo Peters released the statistics on the festive season road fatalities. The figures are deeply worrying and point to a disregard of road laws and regulations among motorists.
The increase in deaths on our roads can be reversed if more motorists play their part in driving safely. We believe everyone can make a difference, and reduce the every-increasing road deaths we see every year.
The figures released by the Minister cover the period from 1 December 2015 to 11 January 2016. The Minister noted that these were preliminary figures.
According to the Minister, 1755 people died on the countryís roads during this period, a 14 percent increase on the previous yearís figures. KwaZulu-Natal recorded the most fatalities (302), while the Northern Cape recorded the lowest fatalities (57).
There are a number of issues that arise from these figures.
Firstly, these numbers will increase. In January 2015 similar road death statistics were issued by the Department of Transport (DoT). At the time, the DoT recorded that 1368 people died during the festive season. During the 2016 briefing, a final figure of 1535 for the 2014/15 period was recorded.
Worryingly, 16.2 percent of fatalities were children under the age of 14, while almost 22 percent of all pedestrians killed were 14-years-old or younger.
There may be several reasons for this. Additional reporting may have made the initial number increase, and, unfortunately, crash victims may have died in hospital after the preliminary figures were released. If the same applies to the current period, the number of reported fatalities may rise by as many as 200.
The second, and most important issue, is that these numbers donít reflect a single, or overriding, common thread of the causes of the crashes. The causes range from speeding and risky overtaking to drunk driving, and driving without seatbelts. Other causes include worn-out brakes or unroadworthy vehicles, unsafe following distances and drivers who are distracted (by cellphones, for instance).
In our response to these worrying figures we noted that all of the listed causes have one theme: poor driver attitudes. Many of these crashes are simply the result of drivers who donít believe laws apply to them; they donít take responsibility for their actions, and carry on making decisions that they know to be wrong, despite the risks to themselves, their passengers, and other road users.
While we believe there is much government can do, and we remain committed to assisting government in reducing these numbers, as we have said before, the responsibility for road safety cannot be the sole responsibility of the authorities. There is much motorists can do to improve this situation.
Our call is on you, our Members, to ensure you are also playing your part because you can make a difference.