Festive season road deaths down, but Mbalula concedes 'ambitious safety targets' weren't met

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Fikile Mbalula.
Fikile Mbalula.
Deaan Vivier
  • About 1 448 people died in 1 210 fatal crashes that occurred between December 2020 and January 2021, a 7% decrease in fatalities on the previous year.
  • All provinces, except Mpumalanga, recorded a decline in road fatalities.
  • Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said they fell short in achieving their target of a 20% reduction in fatalities.

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula on Friday revealed that all provinces, except for Mpumalanga, recorded a decrease in fatalities over the 2020/21 festive season.

However, he said they fell short of achieving their "ambitious 20% target" for reduced fatalities.

Releasing the statistics, Mbalula announced that 1 448 people died in 1 210 fatal crashes that occurred between December 2020 and January 2021. That represents about a 7% decrease.

The Automobile Association (AA) added that reductions did not mean road safety had improved.

READ | Lockdown: Alcohol ban remains

"Any reductions are, naturally, good news, but it’s clear our road safety situation has not improved at all over the past year. Current road safety initiatives are simply not working, our country won’t reduce fatalities within the current framework, and much, much more can and must be done to correct this situation which in our view amounts to an annual national disaster," the AA said.

Mbalula said 34.1% of crashes happened between midnight and 06:00.

Eight provinces recorded a decline of fatalities, except for Mpumalanga, which recorded an increase of 4.4%, with 141 fatalities compared to 135 in 2019/2020.

Sedans and station wagon vehicles contributed to the overwhelming number of fatal crashes with driver fatalities increasing from 24.2% to 26.9% during the 2020/21 festive season.


The light motor-vehicles accounted for 51.4% of deadly crashes compared to 51.9% the previous festive season.

“More than half (54,3%) of the fatal crashes occurred on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday, suggesting that the majority of crashes took place within residential areas long after travelers had reached their destinations. There was a notable decline of 4.9% in the number of pedestrians who died on the roads compared to the previous year. 

"However, driver fatalities increased from 24.2% to 26.9%, passenger fatalities increased from 32.2% to 34.5% while cyclist fatalities stood at one percent. The main cause of crashes were jaywalking, hit and run, speeding, overtaking onto oncoming traffic, wet and slippery surfaces and tyre bursts," Mbalula said.

The AA said the 4.9% reduction of pedestrian fatalities was a, "... nominal decrease which doesn't address root problems".

"Pedestrians are an extremely vulnerable road user group with the highest rate of deaths on our roads yet, it seems, no meaningful efforts to reduce these numbers are being made," the association said.

READ | Festive season road deaths: Over 600 pedestrians killed, making up majority of fatalities

Mbalula continued: “We have noted with concern that heavy vehicles had an increased contribution to fatal crashes. Heavy vehicles, with a gross vehicle mass (GVM) greater 3 500kg, were involved in 5.2% of fatal crashes compare to 3.7% last year.  Articulated trucks were involved in 4.7% of fatal crashes compared to 4.9% previously.

“Light delivery vehicles accounted for 24.6% of fatalities compared to 22.2% in the previous year, while motorcycles accounted for 1.9% compared to zero in the previous year,” Mbalula said.

A total of 4 144 motorists were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, excessive speeding, violation of operating permits, and possession of false documents.

Mbalula said traffic volumes declined from 1 556 704 the previous year, to 1 419 782, with the N3 being the busiest route recording an increase from 951 833 in the previous period to 987 596.

There was a significant decline in traffic volumes on the N4, with 110 676 vehicles recorded as opposed to 208 883 vehicles recorded the previous year.

Meanwhile, 518 traffic officers have tested positive for Covid-19 and 33 of them died during the festive period.

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