Western Cape department of transport and public works preliminary figures show that 87 people died in crashes across the province between December 1 and 19, while 845 fatalities were reported nationally during the same period.
In response to a Cape Argus report, MEC Donald Grant said: “Reducing the challenges on our roads to mere traffic officer numbers, however important, is a far too simplistic approach that exposes the very limited understanding of the situation by various commentators.”
The department had, however, been severely criticised by the standing committee on transport, which in November questioned its commitment in not only driving down the festive season death toll, but also filling the six vacant commander posts in Beaufort West, Laingsburg, Vredenburg, Caledon, Somerset West and George.
Outgoing committee chairman Lennit Max – who will from 2017 oversee the standing committee on cultural affairs and sport – had previously confirmed that the department had been operating on a R130 million shortfall.
Committee member Cameron Dugmore also noted 132 vacant posts for provincial traffic officers which, he said, were unfunded, allegedly owing to budget constraints. But Grant said nothing could be further from the truth, insisting that at 523, there had been no decrease in traffic officer numbers, and that the provincial team had increased by 60 officers over the past seven years.
“While my department and I acknowledge the importance of increasing the number of traffic officers on our roads it is incorrect to suggest a direct correlation between an increase in the number of traffic officers and a decrease in the number of crashes and deaths on our roads.”
Grant said the other three safety “pillars” were education, engineering and evaluation.
“Solving the crises on our roads entails a much more complex approach than simply increasing the number of traffic officers on our roads. It involves changing legislation, the improvement of judicial and fine administration process, educating road users, increasing communication, improving the efficacy of traffic officers the adoption of evidence-based planning for a targeted approach, responsible engineering and more.”