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Carnage running rampant on our roads

01.09.2014

DRINKING and driving is an old topic now; most of us know the facts and if you remember my recent article about, texting and driving, in some cases, is worse than leaving the bar after a few drinks.

I still can’t help but approach the topic of road safety though, as I was typing this I had the fatalmoves.com crash counter open on the Web, which measures the number of accidents, fatalities, injuries, the number of paralyzed people as a result of accidents and the cost of said accidents.

→ The figures

AT THE time of writing, the estimated figures since the beginning of the year stood at 653 285 accidents, leaving some 10 730 people dead, injuring 97 765, paralyzing 5 960 and costing the country over R200 million. Those are rather scary figures indeed, many of which are caused by the usual suspects, unroadworthy vehicles, pedestrians, distracted driving and driving under the influence. That means that on average, 44 people have died and 24 have been permanently disabled on our roads every day this year.

→ Unroadworthy vehicles

UNROADWORTHY vehicles have become a problem locally. The surprising aspect of this is that a very small percentage of accidents locally are caused by unroadworthy vehicles. However, this small percentage still accounts for thousands of lost lives per annum which could have been avoided.

The AA has identified a problem with roadworthiness as it ranges from a chip in your windscreen to worn out brake pads or smooth tyres. This means that some cars deemed unroadworthy by law may only present a very low risk in terms of accidents, while the other high risk vehicles remain in the same category.

I propose that a level of roadworthiness indicator be put in place. In the UK there’s a Ministry of Transport (MOT) annual test to establish vehicle roadworthiness - here it would be the DOT test. Is it time for this locally?

→ Pedestrians

WE ALL saw the statistics last year, pointing out that between 35 to 40 percent of all road deaths are pedestrians. Although the drunk pedestrians make up a large percentage of this, there are also ignorant/disobedient pedestrians, unaware victims of reckless driving, unsupervised children, distracted pedestrians, hard-to-see pedestrians, reckless pedestrians and even jaywalking, as causes of death.

→ Distracted driving

I GAVE this issue some traction recently and I have to reiterate its importance again, this week, as it forms part of the road fatality problem here in South Africa. This behavior is not exclusive to texting, it encompasses things like adjusting the radio, drinking or eating and even shaving, applying makeup or getting dressed while driving - believe it or not!

The problem is any distraction that affects your reaction time, so much so that a person who has had a beer or smoked cannabis actually reacts faster than a person who was distracted while driving.

→ Drunk driving

THIS is an issue that’s received a lot of press because it’s quite avoidable and can have serious repercussions such as time in prison or worse… death. In my opinion, the blame for drunk driving cannot be put solely on those who are committing this offence.

Some blame has to go to our lack of efficient policing (those who take bribes and let drunk drivers off the hook) and our poorly developed public transport infrastructure. I’d never condone this behavior in any way but I can see how and why it’s become such a huge problem.

In Europe, the USA and Australia for example, if you know that you are over the limit you have the option of catching a taxi, bus or train. In SA, on the other hand, drunk driving services are very costly. You can take a taxi but you have to wrestle with the idea of leaving your car in one of the most crime-ridden countries in the world.

We will all have our views on the state of our roads, whether they be about driving while drunk or distracted, or perhaps how we feel about unroadworthy cars and pedestrians. Please share your views with us or head to www.autodealer.co.za to read our tips on how to be a safer road-user.

Article written by Sean Nurse
01.09.2014
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