Festive season death toll already up 16% on last year

Rafael Mvundla from Port Shepstone RTI (right) attends to a driver at the road block.
Rafael Mvundla from Port Shepstone RTI (right) attends to a driver at the road block.

Road deaths have increased by 16% between December 1 and 18, compared to the same period last year, bringing the total of fatalities to 767 so far, Transport Minister Blade Nzimande announced on Thursday.

"It is sad to note that we have witnessed a period of an unparalleled mixture of agony, misery and pain on our roads from December 1 to 18 this year," Nzimande said at a press briefing on the mid-festive season preliminary road safety report.

"The most prevalent violations include excessive speeding, reckless and negligent driving and blatant disregard of road signs."

He said drinking and driving, as well as a combination of fatigue and unroadworthy vehicles, had become "lethal problems, particularly on long-distance travellers".

"I have been extremely concerned about the high number of public and freight transport vehicles involved in fatal crashes so far in the festive season," he said. 

A total of 34 minibuses and 44 trucks have been involved in fatal collisions since the start of the festive season.

Nzimande said that many vehicles in fatal crashes had a high number of occupants in them at the time. 

Read: ACCIDENTS: More reckless driving on SA's roads as festive season enters its peak

Most crashes occurred between 19:00 and 20:00 and between 22:00 and 23:00, with Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays having the most accidents since December 1.

Light motor cars contributed to 47% of the total crashes, light delivery vehicles 21%, minibuses 7%, and trucks 5%.

"I call on minibus and truck operators to step up their efforts to reduce the number of crashes involving their vehicles," he said.

Nzimande asked minibus operators to consider using two drivers to relieve each other for long distance journeys. 

Traffic officers conducted more than 356 roadblocks throughout the country since the start of the festive season and issued 326 642 fines for various traffic offences.

Of these fines, 10 666 were for drivers who did not have a licence, while 9 620 were for drivers who did not fasten seat belts, 8 481 for driving unlicensed vehicles, 5 811 for driving vehicles with worn tyres, and 3 039 for overloading of goods.

Speedster bust doing 228km/h

About 1 402 unroadworthy vehicles were suspended or discontinued, while 1 310 other vehicles were impounded.

"To clamp down on drunken driving, speed and other moving violations, the officers arrested more than 2 837 motorists and 1109 of them, which is 39%, were for drunken driving," Nzimande said.

"A total of five drivers were arrested for driving at excessive speeds of between 189km/h to well over 200km/h. The worst offender was arrested in the Free State for travelling at 228km/h on the N3 near Warden."

Human factors contributed to 86.7% of the fatal crashes, while road factors contributed 8.7% and vehicle factors 4.6%.

Road fatalities have increased in all provinces, except for Gauteng which recorded a 10% decrease.

Read more: 33 people die on Gauteng roads over the long weekend

The highest percentage increase was recorded in the Northern Cape with 71%, followed by Free State with 53% and KwaZulu-Natal with 46%.

KwaZulu-Natal recorded the highest number of fatalities (162), 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 worth noting that the Northern Cape has the lowest number of fatalities, although its percentage increase is the highest," Nzimande pointed out.

Males made up 72% of the fatalities.

"Very disturbingly, the contribution of females has increased from 23% to 27%, while the incidents where the gender could not be determined have been reduced from 5% to 1%," Nzimande said.

Specific interventions

He said law enforcement operations would be stepped up and public safety campaigns intensified to turn the situation around. 

Specific interventions would include:

  • Intensifying law enforcement operations on key travelling dates, with a specific focus on speeding, drunken driving and the wearing of seat-belts. Activating more halfway stations for fatigue management. This must be targeted at long distance public transport vehicles;
  • An urgent meeting with the Department of Justice and the National Prosecution Authority to ensure that serious cases involving violations of traffic law are prosecuted expeditiously to send a strong message to errant road users that there is a zero tolerance for transgressions of road rules;
  • In the long-term, an engagement with the Department of Trade and Industry to review the trading hours of taverns and restaurants where liquor is sold. Nzimande said they believe that the 02:00 cut-off time encourages binge drinking and increases the risk of road traffic crashes in the early hours of the morning;
  • Cross-border operations will be strengthened to deal with the high incidents of cross-border minibus vehicles that are overloaded with both passengers and goods.

Also read: WATCH: Had too many drinks? Here's what it's like to drive under the influence

Nzimande said they were expecting traffic volumes to increase dramatically from Friday when many people will be travelling home to be with their families, or to their holiday destinations, for Christmas Day.

They also anticipate that more people will be travelling again on December 28 in preparation for New Year’s Day.

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.

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