At least 1 551 people were killed in 1 221 fatal accidents on the country’s roads during the festive season, Transport Minister Sbu Ndebele announced in Pretoria today.
The deaths were registered between December 1 and January 5.
In the previous year between December 1 2009 and January 11 2010, there were 1 582 deaths on the country’s roads.
Final figures are expected to be released after February 11.
The two worst accidents took place in KwaZulu-Natal. Twenty people were killed in a collision between a minibus taxi and a midi bus on December 23 near Mtubatuba.
Near Utrecht, 11 people were killed when a minibus overturned.
Ndebele said this year’s number was far too high. In New Zealand, 20 people on average were killed on the roads each month.
In Australia, officials became concerned when road deaths exceeded 120 per month, he said.
In contrast, in South Africa, more than 1 000 people were killed every month.
“We do not talk about deaths. We talk about road carnage. Carnage refers to the violent killing of a large number of people.
The question every South African must ask is which 1 000 it is going to be this month or the next?”
Former president Nelson Mandela lost a son and a granddaughter on the country’s roads, he said.
He urged drivers to change their behaviour to help reduce deaths on the country’s roads.
Of the 1 221 fatal crashes countrywide, KwaZulu-Natal had the most (at 232), followed by Gauteng (with 200) and Eastern Cape (with 169).
In Limpopo, there were 155 fatal accidents, in the Western Cape 127, in Mpumalanga 115, in the North West 98, in the Free State 90 and 35 in the Northern Cape.
There were 415 motorists arrested for excessive speed.
Ndebele praised officers for arresting and prosecuting Free State sports, arts, culture and recreation MEC Dan Kgothule.
He was found guilty of reckless or negligent driving after he was caught going at 235km/h in his BMW 745 on the N1 near Glen, outside Bloemfontein.
During the festive season, 5 822 vehicles were impounded and 9 182 drivers arrested, of whom 3 332 were arrested for drunk driving, including a Gauteng man caught driving 208km/h on the N1 south, who allegedly told officers that he was rushing to collect his pastor.
He was allegedly three times over the legal alcohol limit.
A total of 553 189 fines were issued for various offences.
During December, there were 852 roadblocks where 1.6 million vehicles were stopped and checked countrywide.
Ndebele said that by 2014, he would like to see the carnage on South Africa’s roads cut by at least half.