Transport Minister Blade Nzimande released the Easter road death toll today announcing a shocking 14% increase in road fatalities over the Easter period from March 29 to April 9 2018, over the same period in 2017. This period coincides with national school holidays.
Increase in road deaths
The Automobile Association (AA) says the release of these figures should serve as an urgent indication to government to "bring all role-players in road safety into the fold to deal more effectively with this carnage".
According to the Minister 510 people died on the country’s roads over this period, 61 more deaths than in 2017. There was also an increase in the number of vehicles involved in fatal crashes over the extended Easter period. In 2017 this number ended on 349 crashes. In 2018 this number ballooned to 430.
A very worrying figure is the sharp increase in the number of pedestrians killed over the period, up from 33.8% in 2017 to 37.3% this year.
It must be remembered that the fatality numbers may increase after a 30-day waiting period after April 9. This is a customary period when calculating final numbers to account for all road-related deaths during the dates under review.
The AA says: "These figures paint an extremely bleak picture. While there are commitments to bring these numbers down drastically, the opposite is happening. We remain of the view that a more concerted, cohesive approach, involving all role-players in road safety in South Africa must be considered as a matter of urgency."
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The Association notes that dedicated and consistent actions are needed to deal with the deaths of pedestrians.
The AA says: "Pedestrians are the most vulnerable road user group in our country. As road safety advocates we believe education with this group is urgently required as is a change in driver attitude to sharing the road with those most at risk. We also believe that dealing more effectively with pedestrian safety will greatly reduce the number of fatalities we see annually, not only festive periods, but during the year as well."
Effective policing needed
Another concern for the AA is the issue of effective policing compared to policing which focusses on processes.
The AA says: "We acknowledge that the Minister has a massive challenge ahead in this regard, but any initiative to reduce these numbers will be welcomed.
"Too many available traffic law enforcement officials are still stationed at static sites checking for expired licence discs and driving licenses. This, in our opinion, while important, will not effectively reduce the number of fatalities. All available officials should be utilised better in the interests of road safety and reducing these horrific numbers. We hope this will be a key priority for the Minister to implement."