Road accidents are sadly on the rise in South Africa and have recently reached a dramatic 10-year apogée. Forecasts even suggest that, by 2020, road accidents will surpass malaria and HIV/AIDS as the main causes of death on the continent!
Earlier this year, the AA released important information about road fatalities in South Africa. According to the data, 14,071 people died in road accidents in 2016, which not only highlighted a significant 9% increase from the previous year, but also marks the highest annual road death toll in the country since 2007.
It is clear that awareness campaigns, education initiatives and speed governors are not working well enough. Driver attitudes seem to be getting worse, and law enforcement is not making the impact it should, as human factors — such as jaywalking, speeding, drunk driving, and reckless overtaking — have been cited as the main reasons for crashes.
According to the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), 90% of road accidents in South Africa are the result of lawlessness and are preventable. These accidents simply should not happen, and road fatalities cost the economy billions of Rand that could be much better allocated to deal with unemployment, poverty and inequality. The resources that the government spends on accidents is believed to amount to R147-billion a year, which is equal to 3.4% of the country’s GDP.
Between March 2016 and 2017, the total number of registered vehicles in South Africa increased by over 200,000, and the number of registered drivers increased by over half a million in the same period. As more drivers and vehicles are filling our roads, it’s imperative that something changes to prevent more senseless injuries and deaths. Public transport operators and motorists need to prioritise road safety, and traffic authorities must implement legislation that will change the attitudes of transgressors and put an end to the rising trend of traffic accidents.
The deadline is nigh for the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety plan, which focuses on improving the four E’s of road safety — enforcement, education, engineering and evaluation. Governments across the world made the decision to increase action in dealing with the road-safety crisis, and the goal is to see a reduction in accidents by 2020. A UN General Assembly resolution even proclaimed October to be Transport Month for Road Safety, and South Africa is one of the UN member countries that committed to observing this month. However, the country still has a long way to go to make its roads safer; and a co-ordinated approach is now needed to curb the death toll.
Removing unroadworthy vehicles and drivers with illegal licenses would arguably be an important step. Increased policing could also mitigate issues, and it has been suggested that traffic authorities should deploy about 20,000 officers during periods when there is a significant increase in accidents, such as Easter and Christmas breaks. It has been proven that when traffic officials are stationed every 50km to 100km, motorists are more aware that they should respect the rules and consider the safety of other road users.
According to Western Cape transport MEC Donald Grant, strict measures by the Department of Justice are also required. This includes imposing jail terms for some road traffic infringements, such as drunk driving. Currently, motorists and pedestrians behave negligently without considering consequences, but this could change if they know they will be charged for various offences, such as failing to wear seatbelts, using cellphones while driving, speeding, overloading, and driving without proper documents.
Grant believes that it’s important that law enforcement initiatives are supported in the courts and that traffic offenders are given the harshest possible penalties to deter them.
Given the shocking statistics, always be vigilant on the roads and be sure to follow the law, so as to protect yourself and others. However, if you are ever involved in an accident that is caused by someone else’s negligence, don’t hesitate to call Henry Shields Attorneys immediately to find out if you have a case.