Road fatalities in Gauteng are reaching alarmingly high levels this festive season with 177 people already dead.
Traffic police spokeswoman Busaphi Nxumalo said on Tuesday: “It's going up compared to last year.”
The number of pedestrians killed - 88 between 1 and 26 December - was higher than in the same period of in 2012.
“There were at least five known cases where minor children as young as three years old were reported to have been killed as pedestrians.”
In some cases children were killed while running across busy city streets.
“There have been cases where impatient drivers allegedly overtook unsafely and hit pedestrians that they did not see. Some of the drivers were also arrested for drunk driving in these cases.”
At least half of all accidents on freeways occurred when pedestrians were crossing them. The worst route was the Golden Highway in the Vaal area. Eight people were killed crossing this road this month.
Nxumalo said there had been 175 fatal crashes in Gauteng since the beginning December.
Besides the pedestrians, who made up the largest group of fatalities, 43 of those killed were drivers, 36 were passengers, six were motorcyclists, and four were cyclists.
Fifty-seven percent of the reported crashes took place on weekends and public holidays, and most took place between 3pm and midnight.
“Of particular note is the period from 6pm on Saturday up to 6am on Sunday, when as many as 20 percent of fatal accidents occurred.”
“This correlates with alcohol abuse and festive period behaviour.”
Nxumalo said reckless driving, not wearing seatbelts and not taking precautions while driving in the rain or in the dark were other leading causes of road accidents.
Meanwhile, acting transport minister Dikobe Benedict Martins said data collected countrywide since the start of the festive season indicated a worrying trend of people driving drunk and driving dangerously.
"Our law enforcement officers continue to arrest people suspected of driving drunk,” he said. “This has to be one of the highest form of irresponsible behavior by motorists."
“What people don't realize is that you can be criminally prosecuted and successfully convicted for being caught driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”
Martins cited the recent example of a successful Midrand engineer who was sentenced to 12 years in prison for culpable homicide for his involvement in the death of five runners.
"Alcohol was found by the courts to have been a contributing factor in this case.“
“Is it really worth it?”
“Is it worth trading your freedom for jail and losing everything you've worked hard to achieve?"
Martins pleaded with pedestrians not to drink and jaywalk, saying pedestrians account for at least 40 percent of the fatalities on South African roads annually.
"It is illegal to walk on highways,” he ppinted out. “Always ensure that you walk on areas clearly demarcated for pedestrians and wear reflective, bright clothes particularly at night.”
Drinking alcohol and walking is as dangerous as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol."
Martins also highlighted reckless driving such as speeding and dangerous among the moving violations that continue to be leading causes of fatal crashes on South Africa's roads.
He said drivers were exhibiting worrying levels of impatience and were willing to break every rule of the road to achieve personal convenience.
“Head-on collisions continue to be a leading cause of deaths on our roads.”
“People overtake on blind rises and over clearly marked solid lines and painted islands. We are pleading with motorists to exercise patience and be courteous towards other road users," Martins said.
He expressed the government's gratitude to law enforcement officers, emergency medical services, health-care professionals and volunteers who continued to work tirelessly to ensure safety on our roads and the saving of lives.
"These men and women work under very trying conditions to save lives. The least we can do is take note of their efforts and offer them the support they need.”
"We will continue to monitor the situation going into the New Year week. We urge our officers to remain vigilant and continue to execute their responsibilities without fear or favour.” - Sapa