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Cape Town - A team of experts has been assembled to help government curb the number of road deaths, Transport Minister Dipuo Peters said on Wednesday.
The team will be drawn from her department, the SA National Roads Agency Ltd, the Road Traffic Infringement Agency, and the Road Accident Fund (RAF), she told reporters at Parliament.
“The areas of focus would include reviewing existing legislation under the National Road Traffic Act, road structural challenges, and educational campaigns aimed at raising awareness about road safety hazards among motorists, passengers, and pedestrians alike.”
The team would be sent to hotspots to identify hazards and interventions to prevent the recurrence of fatal crashes.
“The team will report to me on a monthly basis regarding trends and magnitude of crashes experienced during that particular month,” she said.
Peters said the economy suffered about R306 billion each year because of road deaths.
“This cost includes loss of manpower/skills due to fatalities and injuries, emergency medical services, post-crash services, such as road repairs and clean-up operations, compensation paid out by our agency the Road Accident Fund, etc.”
The RAF paid out R15bn a year to road crash victims.
In addition to the team of experts, Peters was also looking at increasing the number of law enforcement officers on the road. There are currently 18,000 traffic officials against 10 million vehicles on the country's roads.
Several amendments to the National Road Traffic Act were already drawn up or in the process of being developed.
“These include amendments... to introduce a two-year probation period for first-time applicants of driver's licences, and the reduction of the legal alcohol content limit to 0.02 percent for drivers,” she said.
Public transport and freight transport drivers would not be allowed to have any alcohol in their blood.
“We need laws that bite and assist behavioural change within the South African motoring community,” said Peters.
“Behaviour that is inconsistent with the law must attract the necessary penalties.”
The aim was to halve South Africa's annual road fatalities of 14 000 by 2020.
The private sector, specifically fleet owners, was asked to play its part.
“Fleet owners have a responsibility to ensure the roadworthiness of their vehicles before assigning them to drivers,” Peters said.
“We will hold fleet owners accountable for collisions/crashes caused by unroadworthy vehicles under their fleet.”
Peters said in addition to these and other interventions, investigations of corruption at driving testing centres were being scaled up. Several people had already been arrested.
“It remains a major area of concern for us because it's at this level that untrained and unqualified drivers are issued with licences and unroadworthy vehicles are certified to be roadworthy,” the minister said.
“It's like giving someone a loaded gun.”
The department was looking at installing cameras at testing centres. Peters would conduct unannounced visits at the centres.