Festive road death toll may rise another 30%‚ experts warn

Carnage on South Africa’s roads over the festive season saw the number of people killed rise to 1714‚ but some experts are warning that the figure might rise by as much as 30% after the 30-day monitoring period.

Transport minister Dipuo Peters on Tuesday released the figures for road deaths over the festive period‚ which she said indicated a 5% increase from the previous year’s 1629 deaths on the roads.

Peters said more needed to be done to improve driver attitudes and educate drivers‚ passengers and pedestrians.

“The challenge we are facing is that people just don’t want to change their attitudes on the roads‚” she said.

“Stop trying to impress your friends… The culture of the driver alerting the passenger that their seatbelt is not on is not there‚” Peters said.

“Our boy children grow up without role models because our men are in the wrong place; either in graves or in prison.”

Peters said 75% of people who died on the roads were men‚ with most accidents involving only one car.

“The fact that an overwhelming majority of fatal crashes were as a result of a single motor vehicle overturning‚ and head-on collisions‚ points to the incompetence of our drivers to handle their vehicles‚” she said.

To address driver incompetence‚ the minister said that by the end of 2017 the demerit system would be introduced as well as an audit conducted on all drivers and learners licences which had been issued.

“If you got your learners or driver’s licence through dubious means‚ know that you will soon lose it‚” Peters said.

However‚ Howard Dembovsky‚ chairman of the Justice Project South Africa‚ said: “They have been saying the same thing for years. I would be very surprised if the demerit system had been introduced by the end of the year.”

Dembovsky said law enforcement and discipline were major problems.

Dembovsky and the Automobile Association’s (AA) Layton Beard also warned that the 1714 might still be adjusted after a 30-day monitoring period‚ and could be as much as 30% higher.

“It just shows how worthless these things are. We are going backwards. You need to gather and report these statistics in line with the World Health Organisation’s guidelines and those guidelines are that you must monitor for 30 days after the crash‚” Dembovsky said.

“This is something that is very difficult to get across to people. When they talk about the 1714 road deaths‚ these are people who died immediately at the crash scene‚” he said.

The AA’s Beard said: “The numbers are horrific… they are indicative of a lack of mutual respect amongst motorists for their own‚ and other drivers’ lives. While this situation needs to change‚ and change quickly‚ it is also incumbent upon the authorities to not only talk about saving lives‚ but put in place proper‚ implementable strategies to deal with this“.

“What is particularly dismaying about the 2017 numbers is the steep increase in the number of passengers who died. Passengers accounted for 40% of deaths this year‚ along with 34% pedestrians‚ and 24% drivers‚” the AA said.

— TMG Digital/The Times