Easter road fatalities unacceptable
The Automobile Association (AA) and Justice Project South Africa (JPSA) have denounced the Easter road fatality statistics, released by Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi on April 21.
According to the statistics, 235 people died on the country’s roads between April 13 and 17 – an increase of 51 percent on 2016. Half of those who died in the crashes were passengers in vehicles, while pedestrians accounted for just under 25 percent 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 percent.
The AA warns, however, that the final figure could be as high as 370 once the 30-day waiting period is over.
“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, or at worst ineffective,” the AA says.
“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,” says the AA.
JPSA adds that road safety is not a switch that can be turned on an off: “It is clear that the Department of Transport, the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) and all road traffic law enforcement authorities continue to choose to ignore this fact and, instead of consistently and visibly enforcing moving violations all year round, continue to put on ‘shows of strength’ during holiday periods. This methodology has repeatedly proved to be ineffective.”
The AA notes that, unless serious and drastic measures to deal with road behaviour in the country are taken urgently, the road death statistics will neither stabilise nor improve year-on-year, and that the message to South African motorists is that road safety is not a priority. JPSA adds that, until such time as road-traffic law enforcement becomes about road safety and not generating revenue, nothing can be reasonably expected to change.
“One of the first steps needed now is for the Department of Transport, the RTMC, provincial road traffic authorities and non-governmental organisations 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 death toll numbers is inevitable,” the AA concludes.