The grim festive season road fatality statistics are a national disaster and a sad indictment of the total disregard road users have for their own and other peoples’ lives on our country’s roads. Preliminary statistics of the festive season road deaths released by Transport Minister Blade Nzimande yesterday (16 January 2019) show that 1 612 people died on South African roads between 1 December 2018 and 8 January 2019.
In South Africa we accept these figures as routine but in 95 out of 175 other countries in the world these numbers don’t even make up their annual death toll. In fact, in the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Global Status Report on Road Safety 2018, South African ranks a lowly 159 out of 175 countries in terms of total road deaths. This is cause for major concern and certainly, in our view, is a national catastrophe.
The country has moved forward from this issue requiring urgent attention; it has become far more serious than that.
We as a country accept these numbers as normal when in reality they are anything but. One of the most worrying statistics remains the fact that almost 90 percent of all fatalities are caused due to human error, a factor the Minister also highlights as an area for greater scrutiny.
We cannot allow a small minority of drivers who do not obey the rules of the road, or who believe these rules don’t apply to them, to ride roughshod over everyone else’s rights to safe travel. Proper and effective policing, supported by strong judicial intervention, will send a clear message to other reckless and selfish drivers thinking of committing the same contraventions.
The figures show that this year’s festive deaths of 1 612 are five percent more than the 1 527 recorded over the same period last year.
This is a marginal increase but is an increase nonetheless. What these figures point to is a need for a stronger approach to ensuring we have safer cars, safer roads, safer road users, and faster post-crash intervention. The current trend of recording 1 500 – 1 600 deaths over such a short period should be a clarion call for urgent, meaningful and impactful change at all levels of the transport value chain.