The nation is reeling from the shocking road fatality statistics released this week by Transport Minister Blade Nzimande – but today traffic volumes are expected to be even higher and traffic officials have cautioned drivers to take care.
Huge numbers of holidaymakers have been leaving, using the country’s busiest roads and plazas, since Friday to make it to their destinations in time for Christmas on Tuesday.
“We’ve seen people are leaving later than usual – around 10am – to begin their outward-bound journeys and it is encouraging that people are heeding the call to drive when there is sufficient sunlight instead of in the very early morning when a lot of collisions occur,” said Simon Zwane, spokesperson for the Road Traffic Management Corporation.
Zwane said at least 2 000 vehicles an hour were passing through the Phumlani Plaza to Limpopo, 980 an hour through the Middelburg Plaza on the N4 to Mpumalanga and about 1 500 an hour at the De Hoek Plaza on the N3 to KwaZulu-Natal.
That was on Friday. By 5am yesterday there were already 1 700 vehicles an hour passing though De Hoek Plaza.
“By the evening there will likely have been 25 000 cars that would have driven on the N3 towards KwaZulu-Natal,” he said.
On Thursday Nzimande announced that there had been a total of 767 fatalities so far this festive period – covering the period between December 1 and 18 – and that this figure was a 16% increase on the previous year.
Nzimande said KwaZulu-Natal – with 162 fatalities – recorded the highest number of deaths, followed by Gauteng at 125. Limpopo and Eastern Cape had 89 fatalities each, while Mpumalanga had 82, Western Cape 81, Free State 78, North West 57 and Northern Cape 24.
“It is sad to note that we have witnessed a period of an unparalleled agony, misery and pain on our roads from December 1 to 18.
“The most prevalent violations include excessive speeding, reckless and negligent driving and blatant disregard of road signs,” the minister said.
“What stands out most glaringly is that many vehicles involved in fatal crashes had a high number of occupants and a high number of them occurred between 7pm and 8pm and 10pm and 11pm. Since December 1, the majority of crashes happened on Saturday, Sunday and Monday,” Nzimande said.
Yesterday Zwane confirmed that seven more lives were lost after a minibus taxi overturned on the R51 between Cradock and Tarkastad.
More people are expected to be travelling again on December 28 in preparation for NewYear’s eve.
The last peak travel period will be on the weekend of January 5 and 6 when travellers are expected to return to their homes and places of work for the reopening of industries and schools.