Statistics on the Easter road fatalities, released by Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi in Pretoria this morning, are cause for great concern, and may, (when the final numbers are in), be the highest Easter death toll to date. These numbers as a sad indictment on road traffic safety and enforcement initiatives, and calls on both the government, and driving public, to take serious stock of what these numbers mean.
Last year’s preliminary figures, released shortly after the Easter period of 2016, indicated 156 deaths on our roads over the period.
However, when the 30-day waiting period was over (which is customary when calculating final numbers) the fatalities rose to by 57% to 245. If the same applies this year, the final figure may be as high as 370 fatalities. Apart from being deeply concerning, it is also totally unacceptable.
According to the statistics, 235 people died on the country’s roads between 13 April and 17 April, an increase of 51% on 2016. Half of those who died in the crashes were passengers in vehicles, while pedestrians accounted for just under 25% of the fatalities. While almost all provinces recorded increases in fatalities, the Free State was the one province where roads deaths came down by 27%.
We have said it before many times, and we will continue saying it, not enough is being done to stop the carnage on our roads. Year-in and year-out, we are being given statistics that either stay marginally similar to the previous years’ figures, or, sadly, are increasing. And, while much is being said about how to turn this situation around, it appears these efforts are at best slow to materialise, at worst ineffective.
One major issue, was the continuing problems associated with people buying driving licences, instead of earning them, and with the issuing of fraudulent roadworthy certificates for vehicles which should not be on the road.
While this was touched upon at today’s press briefing, the AA is concerned that this has been an ongoing discussion and efforts are taking far too long to resolve. It called upon the Department of Transport, and the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), which is spearheading investigations into the matter, to make more resources available to deal with the problem. In addition, more effective policing, along with visible consequences for bad driving, are needed to begin to address the issues.
Too often metropolitan police officers are targeting motorists for expired licence discs, which, quite frankly, is never going to lead to a reduction of road deaths. These officers need to be deployed on the roads, monitoring moving violations, such as reckless and negligent driving. It’s not the cure-all, but it’s at least a start, and it needs to start now.
The Association noted that unless serious and drastic measures to deal with road behaviour in the country are taken urgently, the road death statistics would neither stabilise nor improve year-on-year, and that the message to South African motorists was that road safety is not a priority.
One of the first steps needed now is for the Department of Transport, the RTMC, provincial road traffic authorities, and NGOs involved in road safety, including the AA, to begin looking at how this situation can be turned around for the festive period at the end of the year. Unless proper implementable plans are formulated, and put in motion now, we fear a repeat of these, and last year’s numbers is inevitable.