It’s never nice reporting on the lives lost on our roads during a time of the year that is meant to be spent in the company of loved ones, but if it helps save just one life, I’d consider it completely worth it.
But before I get into the statistics, allow me to wish all of you a belated Happy New Year and all of the best going forward. The Autodealer team appreciates each and every one of our readers and would like to thank you for your interaction, support and your continued readership.
Each year, the Transport Minister, in this case Joe Maswanganyi, is the bearer of bad news when delivering the annual road fatality statistics for the December period.
In the period from 1 December 2017 to 9 January 2018, some 1 527 people lost their lives on our roads, versus the 1 714 fatalities from the same period in 2016. This equates to an 11% decrease in the total number of deaths on our roads nationwide. To put this into perspective, before we start celebrating, there were similar road-related fatalities throughout the entire 2015 year in places such as the United Kingdom, Spain, Australia and Greece.
There is clearly a problem locally, despite the drop in fatalities. We’ve said it for years and despite the various campaigns and pleas from the government, the media and other institutions, the death toll continues to be far higher than anyone would consider ideal.
How do we compare?
Comparing statistics provided by the AA from back in 2015 to statistics from the International Traffic Safety Data and Analysis Group (IRTAD) over the same time, South Africa reported some 12 944 road deaths, which is around seven times more than that recorded in the United Kingdom, almost four times more than in Germany and more than twice that of Argentina during the same period.
I have used these countries as an example as their populations are relatively similar in terms of size (Germany 81.69 million, United Kingdom 65.13 million, Argentina 43.42 million and South Africa 55.01 million as of 2015), making the figures per capita more relevant. The real shocker is that besides Argentina, the UK and Germany have larger populations and far fewer road deaths.
The figures paint a grim picture of driving in South Africa, in fact, if we take 2013 statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) ranking South Africa in the number of road deaths per 100 000 people, you’ll come to a figure of 25.1 people per 100 000. This figure is incredibly high, only trounced by other African countries such as Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola and other countries such as Thailand and Iran to name a few.
Why is this so?
I recall hearing over the radio during my time off that the police would be increasing their presence during the holidays and also remember thinking that it’s likely in ineffective ploy.
However, I’m pleased to eat a slice of humble pie with figures revealing a 43% decrease in fatalities on 13 of the country’s most hazardous routes, which were manned by traffic officials, according to the AA. I can attest to this, anecdotally of course, having been stopped in four road blocks during my time off and also spotting more police during my travels.
“It is therefore critical that the introduction of the 24/7 shift system for traffic law enforcers is done sooner rather than later. With more traffic officials on our roads, at all times of the day or night, we believe these reduced numbers will be sustained, and even improved on next year,” the AA said.
According to the figures, some 37% of deaths were pedestrians, while there was a notable increase in the deaths of people aged between 25-34 years. This means that younger people need more education surrounding the dangers of drinking and driving/walking, distracted driving and indeed, speeding.
Fortunately, there are initiatives in places such as the Walk Safe and Visibility Campaigns, which are supposed to encourage youngsters to consider the consequences of not being seen while walking or walking whilst intoxicated.
Perhaps the most promising thing about this festive season is that there was a reduction in fatalities. This is not to say that the number of deaths is acceptable, but rather that we may be seeing a slight change in the behaviour of drivers, while law enforcement appears to have made an impact too.
Did you experience and unacceptable driving from fellow road users over the festive season? Share your stories with us as well as your potential solutions to the festive season carnage.