Why Minister Mbalula's 2021 Easter road safety statistics could be improbable

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• The AA is not too convinced by the latest Easter road safety statistics.

• The stats were made public by the Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula.

The AA fears South Africa won't meet the UN road safety targets for 2030.

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Easter road safety statistics released by Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula on 8 April would be encouraging if the broader Easter statistics from previous years aligned with the announcement. However, the Automobile Association (AA) says official numbers from previous years don't reconcile with each other or the Minister's own numbers, and therefore any meaningful insights cannot be drawn.

The AA says: "Published numbers from the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) - which reflect official data - show that during the 2019 Easter period, 228 people died on South African roads. Should this be the case, then this year's preliminary number of 235 fatalities over the Easter period would be an increase not a decrease. However, Minister Mbalula yesterday noted that 260 people died over the Easter period in 2019, which would indicate a decrease. These numbers do not reconcile with each other, rendering commentary on them redundant."

READ | Easter road traffic stats: Fatalities down, but Mbalula worried about increase in pedestrian deaths

In addition, the AA notes that the figure of 260 deaths over the Easter period in 2019 is not stated in official government documentation, bringing its veracity into question.

"In 2019, the Easter period fell between 18 and 21 April, yet the official statistics were signed off on 29 April, less than eight days later. Final figures would traditionally only be released after 31 days," says the AA.

Paramedics attending to an accident scene

'Statistically irrelevant'

The AA also warns that any number provided now for the deaths over Easter 2021 is preliminary, and comparing it to any final number from previous years is statistically irrelevant and premature. 

The AA notes: "We have a situation where the Minister of Transport says the government is making headway in achieving road safety goals, but his assessment is based on questionable data. No valuable conclusions can be drawn from these numbers because of the difference and unreliability of the statistics."

The Association says the numbers' discrepancies are further problematic because they should be used to inform future road safety plans and initiatives. 

"Effective statistics are vital to ensuring proper allocation of resources and in determining the effectiveness of government's road safety awareness campaigns, something which cannot be done with the current numbers. We would suggest these numbers, and the reporting mechanisms used to record and calculate them, be reviewed as a matter of urgency," says the AA.

What road safety measures do you practice on South African roads? Please Email us or use the comments section below.

A woman on the phone after being involved in an accident

Don't just blame drivers

Regardless of the inconsistencies with the statistics, the AA says the number of fatalities on the country's roads during festive periods remains too high.

"While we are not able to place reliance on the numbers presented, one death is one death too many. We also cannot be perpetuating a message that continually blames drivers for the high fatality rates. We know that human error causes crashes, but this means that all involved must look for ways to build safe systems that acknowledge this factor and make allowances for it," the AA maintains.

The Association says it is encouraged by the immense effort put in by traffic law enforcers countrywide to deal with the Easter traffic but it should be done every day of the year. 

The organisation further says: "Road safety cannot be a seasonal or event-driven, it has to be a continuous programme. Unless we realise this, and the importance of road safety to our society and economy, we will not solve the carnage on our roads, and we will also never meet the UN road safety targets for 2030."

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