All public transport vehicles must have first aid kits, transport minister Sibusiso Ndebele said on Monday.

“It is optional now to have first aid kits, but next year it will be compulsory,” the minister said in Midrand at the announcement of a first aid training programme for the taxi industry.

The programme aims to teach taxi drivers to administer effective first-line care in medical emergencies, and will be tailored to include specific emergencies that taxi drivers may encounter, such as childbirth.

It is a partnership between the department of transport, Netcare 911 and the SA National Taxi Association.

Ndebele said minibus taxis carried more than 65 percent of public-transport users and therefore must be fully equipped with tools to save lives in an accident.

“A number of lives can be saved if all drivers generally, and taxi drivers in particular, are better trained.”

The first aid training programme was expected to be rolled out in June 2012, starting in the Western Cape.

Ndebele said approximately 1.3 million people were killed in road accidents every year worldwide, and 14 000 people in South Africa per year, amounting to at least 1000 people every month or about 40 people every day.

“We need to stand up together, with the private sector, the education and justice fraternity, the religious sector, civil society, and everyone, to firmly declare that road deaths can be prevented.”

He said the United Nations had urged countries to adopt quick and implementable resolutions to reverse road accident deaths. - Sapa