Road users, taxi drivers and commuters must take road safety into their own hands to reduce the high number of accidents on South African roads.
This was the message at Thursday’s launch of the 2013/2014 phase of Operation Hlokomela (which means “take care”), a joint campaign between the Road Accident Fund and the South African National Taxi Council promoting road safety and responsible driving among taxi drivers, passengers, pedestrians and other road users.
“Road safety is everyone’s issue,” said Mandla Mvelase, chief strategy officer of the RAF, adding that 17 million people used taxis on a daily basis in the country.
The national campaign, first launched in 2010, aims to reduce car accidents by ensuring taxi drivers comply with road safety rules and improving driver conduct on the roads. The kick-off programme, as part of Transport Month and in anticipation of the festive season, took place at the Denneboom taxi rank in Mamelodi West on Thursday.
“Roads are shared by everybody.”
Taxi operators, members of the public and agencies in support of responsible driving were invited to attend the event.
Phillip Taaibosch, secretary-general of Santaco, said: “Every person has to respect other road users.”
Mvelase said the partnership between Santaco and the RAF would help create a culture of compliance with the rules of the road.
He said they couldn’t force people to obey the law but they could, through positive reinforcement, create a culture of compliance with traffic laws.
“We want to dissuade bad behaviour and create a social sanction against bad driving.”
He said: “We want to transform the mindset and attitude of taxi drivers and commuters. It is an important relationship and we have to continually educate people to respect each other on the road.
Taaibosch said the RAF had seen a 30 percent decrease in the number of accidents involving taxis since the launch of the campaign in 2010 and were striving towards a 50 percent decrease in the near future.
“We have made serious inroads with passengers and drivers. We see this as a huge educational tool in South Africa,” he said.
The RAF provided training to Santaco representatives, called Hlokomela Champions, who promote the campaign and raise awareness about the RAF’s road safety initiatives.
Taaibosch said their operators had been welcoming to the campaign, as well as the Hlokomela Champions, who regularly checked the drivers’ vehicles for roadworthiness and compliance.
If their vehicles were found to be faulty, they were not allowed to operate until they’d been repaired.
Even though Santaco and the Hlokomela Champions do not have legal powers to issue fines, they have internal processes in place to enforce the rules.
Taxi accidents do not comprise the highest percentage of road accidents but they can result in a high number of fatalities because of the number of people they carry.
Mvelase said: “When two taxis collide, dozens of people can die or be injured.”
Taaibosch said road safety had always been perceived to be the responsibility of traffic officials.
“As a critical industry and the driver of the South African economy, we therefore want to play a key role in educating our operators, passengers, pedestrians and the community that road safety begins with all of us,” he said.