About 40 people a day are killed on South African roads, R306 billion is lost to the economy and R15 billion is paid out to road accident victims each year.
These unacceptable statistics have resulted in drastic changes being proposed to the National Road Traffic Act. Included are a two-year probation period for first-time applicants of driving licences, the reduction of the legal alcohol content limit to 0.05 percent for drivers of normal vehicles and 0.02 percent for professional drivers, revised conditions of employment for traffic officers, consistent traffic law enforcement across the country, a common approach for the recruitment of traffic officers and spending R8.7 billion on remedial work to five trouble spots in each province.
This according to transport minister Dipuo Peters, speaking at a National Road Safety Summit held last week for Transport Month under the theme 'Together Championing Road Safety 365 Days'.
“The effects of these crashes are devastating.”
Peters conceded that the high road fatality was 'countering' the milestones achieved in developing the country's transport system.
The major accidents witnessed this year alone were a stark reminder of the need to form partnerships to tackle road carnage, she said.
“Families are robbed of their breadwinners, and surviving victims are faced with a lifetime of struggling to fend for themselves due to severe injuries and disability,” she said.
Dipuo also admitted that law enforcement and corruption were big challenges.
“Corruption affects a number of critical functions in the transport sector that contribute to a high number of fatalities. It is prevalent in vehicle licensing testing centres, while driving school operators openly flout the law. Bribery and corruption are not only criminal acts, they have potentially deadly consequences,” she said.
“STANDARDISE NORMS AND PROCEDURES”
To counteract this, she added, the conditions of employment of traffic law enforcement officers needed to be reviewed, as well as the status of road-safety practitioners.
“We also need to standardise norms and procedures across the country, and build the capacity of both traffic law enforcement officers and road safety practitioners,” she said.
South Africa is party to the UN General Assembly resolution that declared the period 2011 to 2020 as the Decade of Action for Road Safety.
Peters said: “The goal is to stabilise and reduce the forecast level of road traffic fatalities around the world by 2020, but the rate at which road fatalities happen in this country makes it difficult to reach those targets.”
WHAT'S IT GOING TO TAKE?
More traffic and road safety officers should be recruited.
Road safety education and awareness programmes should be compulsory.
The provision of pedestrian and non-motorised transport should be assessed with plans to include a 1.5m road reserved for pedestrians and cyclists.
Policy and legislation should be developed and technology introduced to combat driver fatigue and distraction.
Minimum standards should be set by the SABS or the national regulator for all public-transport vehicles. These must include legislation to compel owners to declare the use of the vehicles when taken for roadworthy tests.
Systems should be put in place to expedite the phased implementation of periodic vehicle testing.
Vehicle testing should be reviewed, including compliance monitoring and measures to combat fraud.
Legislation to ensure children's safety in vehicles should be revised or introduced.
Speed limits in areas with high pedestrian activity should be reduced to 40km/h.
Driving schools should teach students in their own languages.
Traffic law enforcement should be declared an essential service with compulsory 24-hour operation.
There should be stiffer penalties for road traffic contraventions. - The Star