Alarm over road deaths

2015-09-06 08:33

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CORRUPTION at traffic licensing bureaus and crooked driving schools have been touted as major factors in the country’s growing list of road fatalities.

This week the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) announced that in KZN alone 714 people had been killed on the roads, 75 more deaths than 2014’s total figure of 639.

Last weekend, the death toll reached 141 from motor-related crashes countrywide, with a total of 110 road crashes. There were 18 in KZN, placing it third in the country’s road crash toll.

At the current daily rate, more than 1 000 people could be killed on the provincial roads before the year’s end.

Authorities are calling for immediate tighter control, from instituting 24-hour traffic monitoring on highways to more anti-corruption operations and even a complete revival of the country’s passenger rail services.

Today marks the second anniversary of the Fields Hill tragedy, which killed 24 people.

RTMC boss Advocate Makhosini Msibi said they would work towards a 24-hour shift system that would increase “police visibility and ensure greater impact on the prevention of traffic offences and a reduction in traffic fatalities”.

“Anti-corruption operations will also be intensified to deal decisively with driving schools that connive with licensing officers to issue drivers’ licences to undeserving candidates,” said Msibi.

Parliament’s portfolio committee on transport issued a statement earlier this week stating that “the rate at which road accidents and related fatalities are happening is alarmingly high and should not be tolerated”.

Committee chairperson Dikeledi Magadzi said: “It is unfortunate that road fatalities continue to rob families of breadwinners and relatives.”

Pat Allen, chairperson of the Southern African Institute of Driving Instructors, said: “Corruption is one aspect, but a lack of training in the industry is a bigger problem.

“You cannot expect to get good safety records on the roads when there is no set standard for driving instructors.”

In July, the KZN Legislature transport portfolio committee admitted that there had been an “increase in road crashes and fatalities” and touted ideas such as the revival of the rail network, thorough research into the causes of road crashes, and learning from countries with lower road death statistics.

In a 2013 study by the World Health Organisation (WHO), entitled “Global Status Report on Road Safety”, road fatalities in South Africa were placed at 31,9 per 100 000.

South Africa is ranked sixth worst in the world — behind Nigeria, Iran, Venezuela, Thailand and the small Caribbean island nation the Dominican Republic.

FAMILIES involved in the Fields Hill tragedy called the accident a “life-changing experience” for all involved.

Karen Dreyer-Janisch, who has worked with the surviving victims and families of the deceased, said the experience altered the lives of truck owner Gregory Govender, driver Sanele May and all of the families of the 24 people that died.

“It was a life-changing experience for our families.

“Families lost people they loved and cared for dearly and they didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. That is what seems to hurt them the most,” she said.

She said the families take one day at a time to work through the “hurt and pain”.

On September 5, 2013, the truck May was driving lost control on Fields Hill and crashed into two cars and four minibus taxis, killing 22 people immediately. Another two people later died in hospital.

Peach Piche, who runs the Sanele May Support Group, said they will be visiting May today as well as sending their thoughts to the families.

The founder of South Africans against Drunk Driving (SADD), Caro Smit, said that the carnage on the roads is “totally unacceptable”.

Smit said that an average of 45 people die on the roads every day.

According to Smit, 65% of people who die on the roads test positive for alcohol.

“You could easily bring down the number of fatalities by simply enforcing the seatbelt law,” she emphasised.

To get involved in online discussions, use the hashtag #SayNO2RdCarnage

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  deaths  |  accidents

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