RIGHT: Paramedics worked on the injured driver whose car rolled down an embankment in Pinetown .Pictures: Rescue Care
Road accidents and fatalities in South Africa cost the economy a staggering R143billion in 2015. This was revealed at the 2017 Southern African Transport Conference and Exhibition being held in Pretoria. Road deaths cost the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) 3.4 percent, the gathering heard. Gauteng Roads and Transport department chief engineer Kobus Labuschagne yesterday said human casualty costs accounted for 69.3percent of the total crash cost, while vehicle repairs accounted for 14.9 percent and related incident costs 15.8percent.

Labuschagne said the cost could be higher as there was general under-reporting of crash accidents. He added it was estimated that 13591 people died on South Africa’s roads in 2015.

“In addition, 62520 people were seriously injured and a further 202509 slightly injured,” Labuschagne said. “A further 1429794 persons were involved in road traffic crashes without sustaining any injuries.”

The Road Accident Fund (RAF) reported a 46percent rise in revenue to to R33.2billion for the 2015/16 financial year. The agency said the average value of claims paid increased 24percent from R114969 to R143127 in the period, while claims processing improved by 15percent to R32.3bn. RAF said its own data showed that R1.2bn was paid in medical costs; R120m spent on funeral costs and R6.6bn on legal and other expert costs.

It said a further R8.7bn was paid for general damages - primarily to persons not seriously injured, and R16.4bn was paid for loss of earnings and support for those who qualified. In 2015, the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) identified the need to review and evaluate the cost of crashes (COC) 2004 estimation of the unit cost of RTCs. Labuschagne said that reliability of the RTC costing system was dependent on a consistent, credible, comprehensive, and timely crash database.

He said this required recording of crash data to be conducted with diligence.

“In the absence of this, strategies will have to be developed to simulate RTC statistics as part of a go-forward strategy, as was the case with cost of crashes 2016,” he said.

An Automobile Association (AA) study prepared by engineer and roads specialist John Sampson to assess the road network and maintenance cost over the last 20 years found South Africa needed R32bn per annum to keep roads in good condition. In the US, highway accidents alone cost $871bn each year in economic damages, loss of productivity and other social harm. Of this total cost, $277bn accounts for economic damages, while $594bn is costs related to cost of social harm.

Labuschagne said that the “total cost of road traffic crashes” metric is an important road safety indicator, and the departure point for understanding the extent and magnitude of the road safety problem in a country.

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