Pretoria – About 235 people have lost their lives on South Africa’s roads during the Easter long weekend, according to the official preliminary road crash statistics released on Friday.
This is an increase of 79 (51%) from 156 over the same period the previous year. The statistics were recorded from the 13th to 17th April 2017.
“Our preliminary report shows that many people who died on our roads were victims of hit and run incidents, jaywalking or motorists who were driving at speeds that were too high for the circumstances.
“The report illustrates a new pattern in which crashes shifted from the identified historical hotspots into new routes and build-up areas on times that previously did not have a high number of crashes,” said Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi.
Statistics indicates that people who died on the roads this Easter were 50% passengers, followed by pedestrians at 24.5%, drivers at 19.8% and cyclists at 5.7%.
Transport Deputy Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga attributed the high number of passenger deaths to the bus accident which killed 15 people near Ntunjambili, as well as the nine people killed in the South Coast horror crash in KwaZulu-Natal during the reporting period.
The vehicle types that made a high contribution to fatal crashes were motorcars and light delivery vehicles, with 49% and 20%, respectively.
Minibus type vehicles contributed 7.6% and buses 1.1%, which indicates that most of the passengers who died were travelling in motorcars.
“Very glaringly, most crashes and fatalities happened in residential areas and remote areas, (mostly) from 11pm until 5am. This new phenomenon requires of us to spread our wings jointly informed by uniform working norms and standards,” Minister Maswanganyi said.
Statistics show that fatalities increased in all provinces with the exception of the Free State, which declined from 11 fatalities in 2016 to only eight this year.
Eastern Cape recorded an increase from 24 fatalities in 2016 to 27 this year. Limpopo recorded 30, Mpumalanga 28, Northern Cape 11, KwaZulu-Natal 59, Gauteng 38, Western Cape 22 and North West 12.
Law enforcement operations undertaken during this period saw 61 340 motorists charged with various offences including failure to wear seatbelts, use of cell phones while driving, speeding and overloading.
While more than 2 800 motorists were arrested for drunken driving, inconsiderate, reckless and negligent driving, possession of false documentation and driving without licences and public driver’s permits.
“Our courts will show them no mercy and will give them the harshest penalties permissible,” Minister Maswanganyi said.
Looking at long-term strategies to help curb road fatalities, the Department of Transport, working with the Department of Justice, is finalising the introduction of minimum sentences for negligent and reckless driving.
Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) CEO Makhosini Msibi said this is done in order to reclassify drunken driving from a Schedule 3, which is less severe, to a more severe Schedule 5 offence to ensure that those who negligently cause crashes on the roads do not get bail easily and spend time behind bars.
Other strategies include amendments to the National Road Traffic Regulations, which were published in November last year. The amendments are aimed at regulating the transportation of persons in the load bays of light delivery vehicles for reward.
The regulations, which will come into effect in May 2017, will assist in the reduction of the number of passengers dying in collisions.
National Road Safety Strategy 2016-2030
The National Road Safety Strategy 2016-2030, which was also approved by Cabinet, will address the challenges and gaps identified by the department on the implementation of the previous road safety strategies.
The Parliamentary process, led by the Portfolio Committee on Transport (PCoT) to extensively consult on the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) Amendment Bill, has also started. AARTO is aimed at introducing demerits intended to improve the conduct and behaviour of drivers on the roads.
Minister Maswanganyi said the interventions were implemented because road traffic injuries are a global problem affecting all sectors of society.
“The burden also impacts heavily on our health system and social welfare, where more and more people rely on our social security net for survival. This is costing the country a lot and financially it is not sustainable.”
The Road Accident Fund alone spends about R33 billion annually on payments of claims, which could be redirected to other government priorities to address the triple challenge of employment, poverty and inequality.