These scenes really put the problem that we face on our roads into perspective. The issues only seem to be getting worse and after the government released the much anticipated road fatality statistics for the 2015/2016 festive period my fears were affirmed. The figures were more shocking than ever! A 14 percent increase in fatalities from 1stDecember 2015 to 11thJanuary 2016. That equated to 1 755 lives lost, or 42 per day!
The increase comes despite the fact that some 17 000 traffic police officers were deployed over this period. Apparently the police presence has not helped kerb the fatality rate. The Justice Project of South Africa (JPSA) has been quoted as saying “...it is unreasonable to expect people to drive responsibly over holiday periods when they are allowed to drive as badly as they wish at any other time of the year.”
Transport Minister, Dipuo Peters, gave a very detailed summary of the statistics. The majority of victims were males (around 75 percent) and mostly consisted of passengers, followed by pedestrians, then drivers and a small percentage of cyclists.The age group most involved in these incidents were between 25-39 years old while most incidents occurred over the weekend, which put Saturday as the most dangerous day, then Friday, followed by Sunday.
So what can we do to prevent these high numbers from making an appearance in future? Well I have to say that what the transport minister is suggesting might just scare people into re-thinking their actions. You see, she wants - according to the JPSA - to make a number of traffic-related infringements,“Schedule 5” offences. That means, for example, being locked up for being over the limit in terms of alcohol consumption while driving, would have more harsh consequences.
If this be made a “Schedule 5” offence you will be refused bail and will have to go to court to gain your freedom. I’m sure this would cause a public uproar considering the fact that so many of those in the upper echelons appear to have no accountability and no consequences for what many deem to be convictable offences.
But it’s not just those who drive under the influence that are the problem, nor are the taxis in the majority of incidents. These two just appear to be the poster children for the cause of road deaths. Other factors, such as those who drive without a licence, or those who bribed their way to get a licence, drunk pedestrians, unroadworthy vehicles, distracted driving and speeding.
We need to make efforts in our daily driving routine and maintain these throughout the week and weekend. Drinking and driving is a no-brainer, literally! Also, focus on driving, when you’re driving and nothing else; keep in mind and envisage that everyone around you is a terrible driver/pedestrian and be extra cautious, especially over the weekends, during the evening.
The police also have a lot of work to do by removing as many un-roadworthy vehicles as possible, while also weeding out those who don’t deserve a driver’s licence, from those who are responsible road users.
What do you think can be done to reduce this severely depressing trend of festive period fatality gloominess?