Winning the road war

2013-11-04 00:00

TRANSPORT authorities appear to be winning the war on traffic fatalities, with a third fewer accidents recorded in 2013 than three years ago.

According to data supplied by the Road Traffic Inspectorate (RTI), there has been a steady decrease in the number of deaths on provincial roads over a 36-month period ending in September.

The data used to make this assessment stretches from September 2010 to September 2013 (see graphic).

During the period, 6 452 people were killed in 5 649 accidents.

The statistics also revealed that December continues to record a higher number of deaths compared to the rest of the year, largely related to the influx of tourists for the Christmas holiday period.

A total of 649 people have been killed on provincial roads in December since 2010.

Transport MEC Willies Mchunu said the province cannot be complacent about accidents.

“It is estimated that road accidents drain our national economy by approximately R306 billion a year. That’s about 10% of GDP, and this is money we could be investing in schools, clinics and new roads.

“We are encouraged by the fact that there has been a 33,6% decrease in road fatalities over the past three to four years, despite a marked increase in traffic volumes over the same period. But, as several recent high profile accidents have so tragically shown, there is no room for complacency,” he said at the launch of “Go Durban!”, the brand name for eThekwini’s Integrated Rapid Public Transport System (IRPTN) on Friday.

Mchunu said the department is “looking at several other interventions to stopping the road carnage across the province”.

“We are intensifying our focus on closing testing stations found to have operated outside of the road traffic laws. In the last few months, we have already closed 10 stations, which aid the illegal passing of unroadworthy vehicles, which cause avoidable accidents,” he said.

Mchunu said they had also re-launched “Operation Phezukwabo”, a visible traffic police initiative to focus on heavy vehicles.

According to his departmental spokesperson Kwanele Ncalane, the province does not have enough traffic officers. The RTI’s staff complement stands at 712 officers across its four regions of Pietermaritzburg, Durban, Lady­smith and Empangeni.

It currently has 101 vacancies to fill, ranging from traffic inspectors’ posts to chief provincial inspector.

“We do not have enough officers as yet. It is an area we are focusing on. We are still recruiting,” said Ncalane.

He said the department was aware of their disastrous recruitment drive held at Pietermaritzburg’s Harry Gwala Stadium in December 2012, where eight people died, and would go to extraordinary measures to avoid a repeat.

• jonathan.erasmus@witness.co.za

NETCARE911 provincial spokesperson Chris Botha says he believes the province’s emergency services are coping with the high accident rate.

He said the communication between the public and private emergency services was excellent.

According to the Health Professionals Council of South Africa, there are 12 194 registered emergency medics in KZN, ranging in qualification from ambulance emergency assistants to emergency care technicians and paramedics.

“This country is producing excellent paramedics who are wanted around the world, and our training colleges cannot keep up with the demand,” said Botha.

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