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Durban - Motorists who cross a barrier line to overtake other vehicles will not be given a traffic fine this festive season. They will be arrested on the spot and charged with reckless and dangerous driving instead.
With the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) reporting that 765 people had died on South Africa’s roads since December 1 – according to its latest figures. The order was issued to all traffic authorities across the country on Sunday in an attempt to curb the carnage.
The latest figures show that 26 people were killed and 44 were injured in road accidents across the country over the weekend, according to reports by various officials.
The most deadly accident was on the N9 between Aberdeen and Willowmore in the Eastern Cape.
Eastern Cape traffic spokesman Tshepo Machaea said five people were killed and seven were injured when a taxi’s tyre burst, causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle which then overturned.
RTMC spokesman Ashref Ismail said since the beginning of the month, there had been 17 major fatal crashes. Five or more people have to die in a single accident for it to be termed “major”. Of those 11 were head-on collisions – which left the lowest chance of survival for passengers – and were the reason for the step-up in punishment being handed out to offenders, he said.
“We will not prosecute on the basis of overtaking and crossing the barrier line, we will charge them for reckless driving,” Ismail said.
Ismail went on to say that the death toll this festive season was unacceptably high, and insisted that all road users “obey the rules of the road”.
“It sounds like common sense, but sense is not so common sometimes,” he said.
Even in the most modern vehicle, the chances of surviving a head-on crash at speeds above 70km/h were greatly reduced, he said.
“The most common types of injuries related to a head-on collision include spinal injuries, brain injuries, catastrophic injuries, broken bones, and even paralysis.”
The eThekwini metro police spokesman, Eugene Msomi, said the sterner take on traffic infringement was a welcome one, and would help to bring down accidents.
“It (illegal overtaking) is a serious issue, and we do have a problem with it,” he said.
Msomi also said the metro police had continued their crackdown on drunk drivers in Durban this weekend, with 132 drivers arrested in operations conducted from Thursday until Saturday evening.
He added that, although the latest accident figures had not yet been tallied for the Durban area, serious vehicle accidents were down compared to last year.
Transport Minister Ben Martins urged all motorists to prioritise life above personal convenience, his department said on Sunday.
“Minister Martins says if each motorist aimed to save a life each time they got into their vehicles, the nation would make considerable progress in the fight against road carnage,” said a spokesman
Ismail said it would be unlikely that the RTMC would reach its target of reducing road fatalities this year.
The RTMC had hoped to ensure that there were 25 percent fewer deaths this year compared to the 1 771 people who died as a result of road accidents between December 1, 2011 and January 10, 2012.