It makes no cents

It makes no cents

Road safety in South Africa is in a shambles, yet it doesn’t get the funds it so desperately needs – and that makes no sense.

October is Transport Month; November is conference month about transport – that doesn’t seem right somehow …

In any event, I do my fair share of conferencing. One of them had me talking about the cost of crashes and the impact thereof on the SA economy. Obviously a very serious topic, with even more serious implications as the costs simply increase year on year. But it’s also a rather dry topic, so understandably keeping folks interested was always going to be a stretch.

The key findings in the research I did were that while the reported fatalities are on file, no-one has a substantiated clue of the number of people injured in road crashes. I had to resort to using a model based on 1998 crash data and ratios. The Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) simply annexed UK-based numbers and did a straight US-dollar conversion.

Our numbers did not match. Not even close.

I found, based on the RTMC’s 2010/2011 reporting period, that the cost of crashes in SA amounted to just over R157 billion in that period. This includes fatalities, serious and minor injuries as well as vehicle damage only. The more than 1,2 million crashes reported to the police involved almost two million vehicles … (are you insured?).

Here’s something to put R157 billion in perspective – the amount represents four Gautrains with enough spare cash to pay for the Gauteng toll road – in one year! Next year it will be more.

So much for the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety – the RTMC is still working on its strategy to implement its actions a full 18 months after the launch. I suspect they are bit cash-strapped and simply can’t implement anything, and that the “working on a strategy” thing is a smokescreen. Did I mention that the RTMC is the lead agency driving road safety in South Africa?

Just doing a few things well will cost money, but it will be an investment in ourselves. The National Treasury can quite easily find R300 million for road safety projects or interventions, but they haven’t been asked. At least not by the Department of Transport – and even if the RTMC did ask, judging by past records, I suspect there could be some hesitancy in parting with the loot.

Funding road safety has always been a problem, so when AARTO (the Administration and Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act) was proposed, the thinking was that a portion of fines would go to a road safety fund (or its equivalent). This makes sense, as does allocating a portion of the eNaTIS (electronic national administration traffic information system) transaction fee; that R36 extra you have to pay when licensing your car.

To date, not a red cent has been forthcoming and probably never will – certainly not from AARTO fines in Johannesburg.

Why? At the same conference, during question time, a very senior Johannesburg Metro cop asked a question that very clearly demonstrated to all and sundry his apparent lack of understanding of the differences between the old system and AARTO. He couldn’t comprehend why taxi drivers simply refused to pay AARTO fines. I told him to check the AARTO Act for the answer.

AARTO infringement notices must be sent via registered mail within 30 days of the offence. In Johannesburg, they’re not. That’s why they get ignored. Simple.

Yes, it’s in the Act.

And therein lies just one reason why road safety in South Africa continues to be in a shambles.


SKID MARKS is a regular column in which Gary Ronald presents his personal and sometimes jaundiced view on transport, safety and mobility. Ronald has a wealth of experience in these fields has presented numerous papers both locally and internationally. He’s been with the AA since 2000 and is currently its head of public affairs. All comments published here reflect his own opinion, and not that of the AA. FOCUS appreciates his witty, topical and sometimes irreverent stance on the industry. If you’d like to respond to whatever punches he throws, visit

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