South Africans must reclaim their roads from the reckless few who have turned them into killing fields.
Addressing parliament’s transport committee on Tuesday transport minister Sibusiso Ndebele said while most road users were law-abiding citizens, a few individuals were “turning our roads into killing fields” by continuing to display a “total disregard for the rules of the road”.
“They must be isolated and exposed (because) their deeds are not only a danger to themselves, but pose a real threat to the sustainability of society as a whole,” he added.
Ndebele also urged the families of drunk drivers to “isolate them” and to “disown their destructive and deadly ways”.
1475 ROAD DEATHS IN HOLIDAY PERIOD
The minister’s comments came as the Road Traffic Management Corporation presented the committee with the latest available statistics on road accident fatalities for the recent holiday period.
According to the RTMC, 1475 people died on the roads in 1279 fatal crashes between December 1, 2011 and January 11 this year.
Although this represents a 13 percent decrease from the 1704 deaths recorded over the same period in 2010/11 and falls just short of the RTMC’s target of reducing road deaths by 15 percent each year, RTMC acting CEO Collins Letsoalo stressed that the figures for 2011/12 were still “preliminary” and could change once the UN-prescribed 30-day statistical consolidation period had passed.
Letsoalo said most fatal accidents involved drivers between the ages of 19 and 29 and occurred on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings between 7 and 11.
EYES ON THE ROAD
He told the committee he was in the process of re-organising the deployment schedules for the organisation’s 283 traffic officials to have the maximum number of eyes on the road during these times. He also appealed to municipalities to make similar arrangements for their own traffic officers.
He also revealed that most fatal accidents happened on urban and peri-urban (unmarked tar) roads and that reckless overtaking - for instance on blind rises or across barrier lines - accounted for more than 65 percent of “major fatal crashes”. A major fatal crash is an incident in which five or more people are killed, five or more vehicles are involved, with fatalities, or a fatal crash involving vehicles transporting hazardous substances.
“We want to catch them young”
Ndebele said his department faced a “mammoth task” in changing conduct on the roads, prompting the introduction of a “social conduct change programme” and, in conjunction with the department of basic education, the re-introduction of road safety as part of life skills training at schools.
“We want to catch them young, before they fall for the societal pressures associated with this world we live in,” he said.
Ndebele also called on mass transit commuters to contribute by refusing to be transported in vehicles that didn’t meet basic safety requirements, were “driven at breakneck speed” or whose drivers were under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
“Passengers must work with us in changing the culture on our roads; it is only if we all become involved that we will be able to win the war against road carnage,” he said.
A parliamentary research report undertaken for the transport committee has also warned that road crashes look set to become the second-largest cause of unnatural deaths in SA by the year 2020, surpassing even the combined number of deaths resulting from Aids and Malaria. As things stand, almost 40 people die on the country’s roads each day, costing the economy an estimated R40 billion a year. - Cape Times